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

Kim debunked the rumors after engaging in a war of words with the show's creator, Mike Fleiss. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kim Kardashian Just Debuted Cherry Red Hair & It Looks Stunning," 24 Feb. 2019 In her latest, a war veteran with PTSD, Will (Ben Foster), and his loving teenager daughter, Tom (New Zealander Thomasin McKenzie), live off the grid on a nature reserve outside Portland, Oregon. John Powers, Vogue, "These Were 2018’s 12 Best Movies," 12 Dec. 2018 Our award skips the E300 (its four-cylinder is too overburdened to earn our nod) and the war-hammer AMG E63 S (too expensive for our price cap) and goes to the six-cylinder heart of the lineup. Car and Driver, "2019 10Best Cars," 28 Nov. 2018 Jose Perez-Santiago, an Afghanistan war veteran, retrieved belongings on Wednesday from a Spring Lake house swamped by the overflowing Little River. Alex Derosier And Alan Suderman, Fox News, "Reckoning with loss of homes, livelihoods after Florence," 21 Sep. 2018 No building, not even the Eiffel Tower, is more representative of the spirit of Paris, of its beauty and its resilience over centuries of plague, war, protest, tragedy, and of so much joy. Ingrid Abramovitch, ELLE Decor, "Notre-Dame Cathedral Symbolizes the Power of Architecture to Transform Lives," 16 Apr. 2019 Anxiety is physiological, influenced by a delicate balance of hormones and the tug of war between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Caroline Foran, Glamour, "No, You Don’t Have to ‘Justify’ Your Anxiety," 27 Mar. 2019 Following on from Rising Storm’s World War II and the sequel’s Vietnam War, ’83 is set in an alt-history Cold War era where war erupted between the USA and USSR. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Borderlands 3 teased for PAX East, Dwarf Fortress is coming to Steam," 15 Mar. 2019 The Future Will Be Pedestrianized Prize The war on cars (also the name of an excellent new podcast) comes home as fires burn, sea levels rise, and the planet warms. Mark Lamster, Curbed, "2018 in architecture: The good, the bad, and the urbanism," 27 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

And in some respects the 48th, with its weak but universally known incumbent Republican (Rohrabacher), its viable GOP challenger (Baugh) and its multiple warring Democrats, is a perfect storm for the lockout scenario. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "How 3 Races in California Could Cost Democrats Control of the House of Representatives," 2 June 2018 These civil wars can be ugly, angry, costly affairs, breaking carefully built organizations into warring camps, tearing apart colleagues and coalitions. Elaine Weiss, Time, "Women's Movements Are Facing Internal Divisions. History Shows That's Not Necessarily a Bad Thing," 6 Mar. 2018 At that point, Mr. Trump and Mr. Schneiderman were warring over Trump University in a legal battle bitter enough that Mr. Trump eventually filed a complaint against Mr. Schneiderman with New York State’s ethics watchdog agency. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "Lawyer for 2 Schneiderman Accusers Brought Their Claims to Michael Cohen," 11 May 2018 There’s Tiffany and Ivanka Trump, Johnny Marr and Morrissey, and Lucinda Williams and Dar Williams (reimagined as warring cousins with radically different views of songwriting). Sally Singer, Vogue, "With Slash, a Fetish for Pop Culture Leads to the Stage," 8 Jan. 2019 Wilderness Safaris’ Linkwasha is the epitome of safari luxury, and it’s in the best game area of the park: warring lion prides, packs of wild dogs, cheetahs, and herds of elephant and buffalo everywhere. Klara Glowczewska, Town & Country, "The Best Places to Travel in 2019," 7 Dec. 2018 The cease-fire between the warring sides in Yemen was announced before the vote, a result of the first direct talks between the sides in two years. Dion Nissenbaum, WSJ, "Yemen Foes Agree on Cease-Fire Amid U.S. Pressure," 13 Dec. 2018 Extra police and troops were sent in after warring drug gangs increased killings in the state in 2017. Mark Stevenson, The Seattle Times, "Mexico sees 16 percent rise in murders in 1st half of 2018," 23 July 2018 The sides are currently warring over whether two top law firms -- Gibson Dunn and David Wright Tremaine -- have to hand over documents being claimed as privileged. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Al Jazeera Says Peyton Manning Was "Source" Confirming Doping Claims in Film," 1 June 2018

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

19 May 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

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