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

Michoacan was where Mexico’s 2006-2012 drug war began. Washington Post, "Mexican official denies vigilante movement has reignited," 5 Sep. 2019 No doubt many Boomers today misremember having opposed the war from the start. Ted Scheinman, The New Republic, "The Historical Amnesia of Joe Biden’s Candidacy," 5 Sep. 2019 The races used to live peacefully in their respective regions, until war broke out with a mysterious group called The Pact. Jennifer Ouellette, Wired, "Carnival Row brings a Richly Textured Fantasy World to Life," 4 Sep. 2019 The president says China is the one suffering from the trade war, but data shows the U.S. getting hurt. NBC News, "Around the world, disruption is beating out stability," 4 Sep. 2019 Bloom plays a detective investigating a string of murders in a Victorian-esque setting in which humans cohabitate with mythical creatures escaping war. Jen Juneau, PEOPLE.com, "Katy Perry Trolls Fiancé Orlando Bloom — Watch the Hilarious Musical Prank," 4 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, the entire manufacturing sector was faced with rising uncertainty about when, or whether, the trade war would be resolved. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Will Trump Back Down as His Trade War with China Bites the U.S. Economy?," 4 Sep. 2019 While a lot of Connecticut companies have been hit hard by the trade war, Bigelow is among the ones hit the hardest. courant.com, "Sept. 3, 2019: Welcome to our new newsletter!," 3 Sep. 2019 Trade war hits home: How tariffs on clothing, TVs and school supplies could affect you September poses its own challenges. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "Good riddance to August but September could be just as bumpy for stocks, history shows," 3 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Saavedra’s arrival in 2014, coming as a consensus choice of warring board factions who needed a truce, had brought an end to three years of dizzyingly high superintendent turnover. Krista Torralva, ExpressNews.com, "Departing South San ISD super to get $187K in separation agreement," 4 Sep. 2019 On Sunday, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi in Amman to discuss her efforts to relaunch negotiations after years of stalemate between Yemen’s warring sides. Washington Post, "Saudi-led airstrikes kill at least 100 in rebel-run prison," 2 Sep. 2019 On Sunday, Sweden’s foreign minister held talks in Jordan on Sunday as part of her efforts to relaunch negotiations after years of stalemate between Yemen’s warring sides. Samy Magdy, BostonGlobe.com, "Saudi-led airstrikes kill at least 100 in rebel-run prison," 1 Sep. 2019 Conservatism is riven by warring sides, too, but that doesn’t put National Review at the center of American politics. Barton Swaim, WSJ, "Political Books: My Country—Right, Left and Center," 28 June 2019 Briefly, at the outbreak of strife between the two communities in December 1963, about 15 British troops moved in to keep the peace between the warring sides. Menelaos Hadjicostis, Fox News, "Aging grand hotel highlights the ethnic division in Cyprus," 16 June 2019 In this case, there were no warring factions, Evers says. Ryan Kost, SFChronicle.com, "From SoulCycle to ‘Mulan,’ boycotts abound. But do they work?," 21 Aug. 2019 But Trump, and his racist tweets about the four women and attempts to paint them as the face of the Democratic Party, have actually worked to unite the warring factions of the party against Trump. Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, "Stabenow, Tlaib blast Trump at NAACP convention in Detroit," 22 July 2019 Speaking of then and now, that party almost immediately split into warring factions, with a compromise-averse, more doctrinaire left wing challenged by more pragmatic moderates. Phil Primack, BostonGlobe.com, "Guess which Massachusetts town elected the nation’s first socialist mayor," 14 June 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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Statistics for war

Last Updated

8 Sep 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

What made you want to look up war? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


recurring in steady succession

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