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
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
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
\ 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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Nearly 2m Ukrainians have arrived since 2014, pushed by a ropy national economy and a war in the country’s east, and pulled by higher wages in Poland. The Economist, "Charlemagne Poland is cocking up migration in a very European way," 22 Feb. 2020 There’s no ambassador to Afghanistan, as the US tries to negotiate its way out of a nearly two-decade war there, nor of course in the wake of impeachment and Trump’s purges is there a permanent US ambassador to Ukraine. Garrett M. Graff, Wired, "How Trump Hollowed Out US National Security," 21 Feb. 2020 The prolonged conflict in Yemen is viewed by many as a proxy war between coalition-leader Saudi Arabia and Iran, but sometimes, the United States is caught in the middle. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "Pentagon: Death of Soleimani has not stemmed Iranian arms smuggling," 20 Feb. 2020 The golden arches at McDonald's have long been home to a popular Lent option with its Filet-O-Fish sandwich and now two competitors are wading into the waters, which has created a bit of a surf war online. Kelly Mccarthy, ABC News, "Arby's, Bojangles add fish sandwiches ahead of Lent, wade into fast-food surf war on Twitter," 20 Feb. 2020 Trailers have depicted 'Mulan' as more of a fantasy war epic than a musical. Sharareh Drury, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Mulan' Receives First PG-13 Rating for Disney's Live-Action Remakes," 19 Feb. 2020 And President Trump does not have the authority for a war with Iran. Matthew Daly, ajc, "Senate votes to restrain Trump’s war powers on Iran; veto expected," 13 Feb. 2020 So the Air Force is planning to disperse its fleets of fighters, bombers, and other planes during a war to protect them from attack. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "In a Future War, the Air Force's Big Air Bases Could Be a Big Liability," 13 Feb. 2020 If a honeybee colony is weak, hornets can annihilate it, but for now, the fight in Arndt’s yard continues as a war of insect attrition. National Geographic, "Photos from inside a tree reveal intimate lives of wild honeybees," 8 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Trump has sided firmly with farmers, pledging to increase water deliveries to farms, while California Gov. Gavin Newsom has tried to seek a middle road between the warring interests. Kurtis Alexander, SFChronicle.com, "California sues Trump administration again — this time over water," 20 Feb. 2020 Unfortunately, the football cosmos has aligned in such a way that, no matter what jerseys the two teams wear, the whole game will look like a battle between warring colonies of fire ants. Aj Willingham, CNN, "What time is the Super Bowl? And other things you need to know about the big game," 2 Feb. 2020 Wiener is constantly at odds with herself, consumed by warring impulses that her time in tech only comes to exacerbate. Jason Kehe, Wired, "The Millennial Meaninglessness of Writing About Tech," 13 Jan. 2020 Rooted in the political history of India, Jamia’s own campus had its brushes with warring ideologies. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "The story of Jamia, the “anti-national” university born of deep Indian nationalism," 29 Dec. 2019 In the decades after the second world war the world globalised broadly within the two warring ideological camps. The Economist, "Business 2019 in review: coping with geopolitics and anti-capitalism," 27 Dec. 2019 This mercurial visual style makes a strange sense for a character torn between warring aspects of his history and identity, between the possibilities of his new home and the trauma and disillusionment of his past. Justin Chang, chicagotribune.com, "‘Synonyms’ at Gene Siskel Film Center: When in France, do as the Israeli commandos-turned-nude Parisian models do," 5 Dec. 2019 Richard and the warring grandmother worked out vacation and travel schedules for Ryder, who has bonded with his paternal grandmother. Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, "'Life would have been a lot simpler': He thought adopting grandkids would save them. He spent years trying," 4 Dec. 2019 The Ryukyu Kingdom emerged in the 15th century following the unification of three warring kingdoms. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Fire Ravages Japanese Heritage Site Shuri Castle," 31 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for war

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for war

Last Updated

24 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“War.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/war. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for war


How to pronounce war (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for war

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

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