noun, often attributive
\ ˈwȯr \

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 \

Definition of war (Entry 3 of 4)

chiefly Scotland
: worse


verb (2)
\ ˈwär \
warred; warring

Definition of war (Entry 4 of 4)

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Other Words from war


warless \ ˈwȯr-​ləs \ 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

Both will ship this year using the 7nm manufacturing process, giving AMD the technological edge over Nvidia and Intel in the war for ever-shrinking chips. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "AMD announces 3rd-gen Ryzen and Radeon VII, beating Intel and Nvidia to 7nm," 9 Jan. 2019 The Wall Street Journal reported in November that Zuckerberg had told Facebook executives earlier in the year that his company was at war. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Facebook’s very bad year, explained," 21 Dec. 2018 Further Reading Android 9 Pie, thoroughly reviewed A stock Android phone is the only Android software loadout where the operating system isn't at war with itself. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Pixel 3 XL review—Google software deserves better than this hardware," 15 Oct. 2018 Royal brides also traditionally leave their flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in a tribute to those who have died at war. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Buckingham Palace Just Shared the Cutest Childhood Photos of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank," 9 Oct. 2018 Capturing the area would give Mr. Assad and his allies control of nearly all of Syria after nearly eight years of war, including vast oil fields currently under Kurdish control. Sune Engel Rasmussen, WSJ, "Turkey Amasses Troops, Tanks on Syria Border as It Plans to Take Over ISIS Fight," 24 Dec. 2018 The program began as a pilot under President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as part of the war on poverty. Julia Belluz, Vox, "A new Trump rule could take food stamps away from 755,000 people," 20 Dec. 2018 Tyler Blackburn as Alex Manes: An Air Force officer who recently returned from war. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About "Roswell, New Mexico"," 12 Dec. 2018 Headley ended up lying face-up on the floor during a tug-of-war over her 18-month-old son. Mike Catalini, The Seattle Times, "Mom whose toddler was yanked by police resolves another case," 12 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The gangs have evolved a more violent, chaotic economic model, one that is advancing in drug-trafficking countries, including Mexico, where large cartels have splintered into many warring groups. Robbie Whelan, WSJ, "Why Are People Fleeing Central America? A New Breed of Gangs Is Taking Over.," 2 Nov. 2018 But splitting the country into tiny warring groups is useful to them. Fox News, "New evidence of political bias at Google; gender politics at play in Michigan Senate race," 21 Sep. 2018 Expect to deal with warring factions, difficult moral quandaries, and hard choices over what gear to wear. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "The 40 games we can’t wait to play in 2019," 26 Dec. 2018 The setback lacked the dramatics of previous years, when Puig warred with teammates or when the Dodgers tried desperately to trade him. Andy Mccullough, latimes.com, "#PuigYourAgent? Yasiel Puig is happy to fly solo without representation — for now," 15 Feb. 2018 Libya’s warring factions gathered here to break the impasse with European and American counterparts, though looming over the conference was the role of Khalifa Haftar, a militia general who controls a vast swath of the country’s east. Jared Malsin, WSJ, "With Libya’s Peace Process in Tatters, the West Hits Reset Button," 12 Nov. 2018 Montenegro claims that an agreement between the warring sides after the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s calls for all military equipment that found itself on a state's territory belongs to that state. Dusan Stojanovic, Fox News, "Montenegro-Croatia relations in danger over training ship," 16 Sep. 2018 Sabrina lives with her Aunt Zelda and Aunt Hilda, two older sorceresses and warring sisters with opposing style. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "Why The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Is the Perfect Last-Minute Halloween Costume Inspiration," 25 Oct. 2018 Working to settle the protracted conflict in Syria, where Russia is aiding President Bashar al-Assad but has also tried to reinforce its role as mediator between the warring sides, appeared to be a bright spot during Mr. Bolton’s talks in Moscow. Anatoly Kurmanaev, WSJ, "Bolton Says Trump Would Welcome Meeting with Putin Next Month in Paris," 23 Oct. 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

13 Jan 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 \

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).


to gather or build up little by little

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