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)
\ ˈwȯr How to pronounce war (audio) \
warred; warring

Definition of war (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to be in active or vigorous conflict
2 : to engage in warfare


adverb or adjective
\ 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)

Other Words from war


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

Synonyms & Antonyms for war

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Noun

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Examples of war in a Sentence

Noun 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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Chancellor Olaf Scholz had warned previously that sending heavy weapons would increase the threat of nuclear war with Russia, without saying how. Fortune, 2 May 2022 The logic of war drove two high-powered visits to Ukraine last week. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 2 May 2022 The sudden spate of attacks across the country has upended the relative calm that followed the Taliban’s seizing of power last August, which ended 20 years of war. New York Times, 1 May 2022 Yet the third month of war finds Russia, not the United States, struggling under an unprecedented hacking wave that entwines government activity, political voluntarism and criminal action. Washington Post, 1 May 2022 Other films in the selection trace the lingering fallout of war and the efforts of survivors to rebuild their lives in its wake. Christopher Vourlias, Variety, 30 Apr. 2022 All proceeds will support the Ukraine Crisis Response Fund to help provide cash, blankets and other items for people fleeing the violence of war. Hartford Courant, 29 Apr. 2022 The horrors of war are rampant in Ukraine, and the U.S. and its allies say Moscow needs to pay. Celina Tebor, USA TODAY, 29 Apr. 2022 In this dreadful conflict, which followed four years of war, millions of people died, among them tens of thousands of Jews. Timothy Snyder, The New Yorker, 28 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The dour news arrived as Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to war over the size and scope of the next coronavirus relief package. Tony Romm, BostonGlobe.com, 5 Aug. 2020 The dour news arrived as Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to war over the size and scope of the next coronavirus relief package. Washington Post, 5 Aug. 2020 Selah takes on a protégée, Paloma (Celeste O’Connor), a new student and amateur photographer who has yet to be claimed by one of the school’s warring factions. Teo Bugbee, New York Times, 16 Apr. 2020 Egypt, Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates are all involved, supplying variously troops, fighters, and military equipment to the warring factions. Lorne Cook, BostonGlobe.com, 31 Mar. 2020 As the virus outbreak — and Israel’s response to it — swelled frighteningly in recent days, the warring factions have softened their rhetoric and embraced, tentatively, the possibility of coming together in an emergency coalition. Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, 13 Mar. 2020 The timing of the pandemic couldn’t be worse for Mexico, especially in this downtrodden city, which has long been marred by drug violence carried out by warring criminal organizations. Dallas News, 9 Apr. 2020 Nothing in your letter suggests a dire backdrop, but many young people are cut off by their parents for warring over hot topics such as religion or sexuality. Philip Galanes, New York Times, 18 Jan. 2018 Anthony Breznican ✔ @Breznican Sharon Duncan-Brewster is Dr. Liet Kynes, lead ecologist of Arrakis and a power broker amid the warring factions. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 14 Apr. 2020 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for war

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near war




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Statistics for war

Last Updated

5 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“War.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/war. Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for war


\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on war

Nglish: Translation of war for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of war for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about war


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