noun, often attributive
\ ˈwȯr How to pronounce war (audio) \

Definition of war

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a(1) : a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations
(2) : a period of such armed conflict
(3) : state of war
b : the art or science of warfare
c(1) obsolete : weapons and equipment for war
(2) archaic : soldiers armed and equipped for war
2a : a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism
b : a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end a class war a war against disease


verb (1)
warred; warring

Definition of war (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to be in active or vigorous conflict
2 : to engage in warfare
\ ˈwär How to pronounce war (audio) \

Definition of war (Entry 3 of 4)

chiefly Scotland
: worse


verb (2)
\ ˈwär How to pronounce war (audio) \
warred; warring

Definition of war (Entry 4 of 4)

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Other Words from war


warless \ ˈwȯr-​ləs How to pronounce warless (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for war

Synonyms: Noun

conflagration, conflict, hostilities, hot war

Antonyms: Noun


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Examples of war in a Sentence


They fought a war over the disputed territory. A war broke out when the colonists demanded their independence. We need to resolve our conflicts without resorting to war. People behave differently during a time of war. The taking of American hostages was seen as an act of war by the United States. the budget wars in Washington
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Some of those men and women are still suffering the long lingering effects of their time at war - including health issues related to Agent Orange exposure and post traumatic stress disorder. Author: Reis Thebault, Anchorage Daily News, "Southwest Airlines flew the remains of a Vietnam airman home to Dallas. The pilot was his son.," 9 Aug. 2019 Yemen’s government forces have been at war with the Houthis, who control the north, since 2015. Washington Post, "Yemeni minister says separatist leader ‘fomenting sedition’," 9 Aug. 2019 The lack of any discernible strategy in Trump’s bluster has finally led Beijing to conclude that the trade war is simply a tool for domestic political purposes. Charlie Campbell / Beijing, Time, "The U.S.-China Trade War Is Steering the World Toward Crisis and There Is No Easy Retreat," 7 Aug. 2019 In an apocalyptic future where humans are at war with robots, the Matrix is projected straight into humans’ minds as a distraction while their bodies are farmed by A.I. for energy. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Dodge this news: The Matrix returning to theaters for 20th anniversary," 5 Aug. 2019 There is civil trauma and then there is military trauma, the stuff that happens at war. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "“All Three Spoke Spanish. All Three Were Americans”: A Pediatrician Describes Treating El Paso’s Victims," 4 Aug. 2019 For all the gloom and mayhem, most of Congo is not at war. The Economist, "How do you reform a country where gunmen torch Ebola clinics?," 2 Aug. 2019 Food-delivery app Uber Eats is at war with its bigger rival Zomato to dominate India. Kuwar Singh, Quartz India, "The bigotry of one Indian customer has united arch-rivals Zomato and Uber Eats," 1 Aug. 2019 With Samsung — the last major holdout — seemingly on board with the effort to kill the 3.5mm headphone jack, the war on the headphone jack is effectively over, and the dongles have won. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Samsung’s headphone dongle leaks ahead of Note 10 announcement," 1 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But Trump, and his racist tweets about the four women and attempts to paint them as the face of the Democratic Party, have actually worked to unite the warring factions of the party against Trump. Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, "Stabenow, Tlaib blast Trump at NAACP convention in Detroit," 22 July 2019 Speaking of then and now, that party almost immediately split into warring factions, with a compromise-averse, more doctrinaire left wing challenged by more pragmatic moderates. Phil Primack, BostonGlobe.com, "Guess which Massachusetts town elected the nation’s first socialist mayor," 14 June 2019 An All-Afghan conference that brought Afghanistan’s warring sides together appears to get the country a step closer to peace with a statement that laid out the foundations for a roadmap to end to nearly 18 years of war. Washington Post, "All-Afghan conference brings country closer to peace," 9 July 2019 No one yet has claimed responsibility for the airstrike, which comes as Libya is split between two warring governments, each backed by militias that control different cities and towns. Greg Norman | Fox News, Fox News, "Airstrike in Libya flattens migrant detention center, killing at least 44," 4 July 2019 All this while Norcross is openly warring with New Jersey’s Democratic governor (who has been actively campaigning for Booker this whole time). Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "Cory Booker Chooses the Wrong Side in a New Jersey Street Fight," 26 June 2019 And for all the laughs and love, and for going to war together on all the bad s—, always. Alexia Fernandez, PEOPLE.com, "Kate Beckinsale Pays Tribute to Her Late Dad Richard in Sweet Father's Day Post," 17 June 2019 Weiner artfully presents two of the warring identities women often embody: rebel and people pleaser. Patty Rhule, USA TODAY, "Jennifer Weiner's 'Mrs. Everything' explores broken dreams in the era of women's lib," 10 June 2019 Germany and France, which have led diplomatic efforts for years trying to ease tensions between warring neighbors Ukraine and Russia, are following the election closely. Geir Moulson, The Seattle Times, "France’s Macron meets Ukraine’s 2 presidential contenders," 12 Apr. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'war.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of war


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Verb (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adverb or adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for war


Middle English werre, from Anglo-French werre, guerre, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German werra strife; akin to Old High German werran to confuse

Adverb or adjective

Middle English werre, from Old Norse verri, adjective, verr, adverb; akin to Old English wiersa worse — more at worse

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Statistics for war

Last Updated

11 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for war

The first known use of war was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for war



English Language Learners Definition of war

: a state or period of fighting between countries or groups
: a situation in which people or groups compete with or fight against each other
: an organized effort by a government or other large organization to stop or defeat something that is viewed as dangerous or bad


\ ˈwȯr How to pronounce war (audio) \

Kids Definition of war

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a state or period of fighting between states or nations
2 : a struggle between opposing forces or for a particular end the war on poverty


warred; warring

Kids Definition of war (Entry 2 of 2)

: to engage in a series of battles

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More from Merriam-Webster on war

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with war

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for war

Spanish Central: Translation of war

Nglish: Translation of war for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of war for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about war

Comments on war

What made you want to look up war? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a period when something is suspended

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