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

c : variance, odds sense 3


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

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

The post-war government implemented much of his plan, and reforms soon followed elsewhere. The Economist, "The welfare state needs updating," 12 July 2018 Yet for all of their history of tolerance and agitation for the Union’s side in the war, their heritage as a stop on the Underground Railroad, the town of Gilead is not going to be ready for Jack Boughton to bring home his black family. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "What two fictional Gileads can teach us about America in 2018," 12 July 2018 General Nathaniel Lyon was a Civil War hero and the first Union Army General to be killed in the war. Courant Community, "Community News For The Stafford Edition," 10 July 2018 Before the sides met, CDU leaders and lawmakers stressed the importance of maintaining the conservative alliance, Germany’s strongest political force for much of its post-war history. David Rising, The Seattle Times, "Compromise reached in German government migration standoff," 3 July 2018 Many of those attempting to cross the border are families from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, three countries in Central America suffering high levels of poverty, with violence rates higher than those of many countries at war. Sarah Kinosian, Teen Vogue, "Reunification Proves Complicated for Families Separated at the U.S.-Mexico Border," 14 July 2018 Watch the evolving spread between port prices in the U.S. and Brazil to gauge the first-order impact of the trade war on American farmers. Fortune, "Charting the Trade-War Fallout Through Commodities," 12 July 2018 Coalitions have helped shoulder the burden of war and strengthened the idea of collaboration that should come with peace. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "5 Space Forces From Sci-Fi and What We Can Learn From Them," 6 July 2018 But the toll from the trade war is starting to show up in some data. The Economist, "As its trade tussle with America heats up, China is on the back foot," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Some think legalized, commercial marijuana growing might help these mountain villages, which have been plagued by violence since opium surged in price and warring gangs fought for control of the area. Mark Stevenson, Fox News, "Mexico opium poppy growers see price drop, turn to marijuana," 22 June 2018 Setting up the Singapore meeting was no easy feat for the technically still-warring heads of state, requiring planners to accommodate confounding requests and paranoia. Washington Post, "Inside the summit: Talks with ‘aliens,’ familiar frustration," 15 June 2018 The June 12 meeting in Singapore, the first between heads of the technically still-warring nations, is meant to begin the process of ending North Korea’s nuclear program. Annabelle Liang, The Seattle Times, "Asian shares rally on jobs data, despite trade talks impasse," 3 June 2018 Border walls and fences have been used throughout history to separate warring nations, protect trade routes and repel migrants and refugees. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "From 7 to 77: There's been an explosion in building border walls since World War II," 24 May 2018 The recently-warring countries have been locked in a bitter border dispute. The Economist, "Politics this week," 5 Apr. 2018 Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats behave like warring nations instead of fellow Americans with disparate points of view. Marcos Bretón, sacbee, "A fond farewell to the Mexican immigrant who brought Democrats and Republicans together," 26 Jan. 2018 He was riveted by the people who shared their pain, such as the 19-year-old woman who never left her room or the man with schizophrenia trying to manage the warring voices in his head. Amy Ellis Nutt, Washington Post, "To Your Health newsletter," 2 July 2018 But some parts of the legislation have been proposed before in separate bills, most of which collapsed from disputes among warring factions of the music industry. Ben Sisario, New York Times, "New Way to Pay Songwriters and Musicians in the Streaming Age Advances," 28 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

3 Nov 2018

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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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 clear from alleged fault or guilt

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