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
\ 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 South Korea is almost as exposed to a trade war as China. Washington Post, "Kyle Bass Was Right to Exit His Yuan Short," 18 Sep. 2019 Collectively, these individual actions helped a nation go to war. Kate Wheeling, The New Republic, "Jonathan Safran Foer on Our Moral Obligation to Eat Better," 17 Sep. 2019 While Trump has shown some reluctance to go to war, there are also few prospects for easing tensions as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decides how to respond to the assault. Fortune, "Saudi Arabia Has Few Options to Replace the Massive Drop in Oil Output From Its Attacked Plant," 17 Sep. 2019 Investigators attributed the killing to a war between two Latino street gangs, 18th Street and MS-13. Mckenna Oxenden, baltimoresun.com, "Baltimore County Police arrest three more people in MS-13-linked Towson killing, 10 suspects now charged," 12 Sep. 2019 The Fed arguably wouldn't need to cut rates further if the United States and China came to their senses on tariffs and put an end to the trade war. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "The bull market just won't die," 11 Sep. 2019 What if our disrupted sense of belonging drives us to war? Mike Martin, Time, "How the Long History of Human Violence Explains Why the Internet Causes So Much Chaos," 11 Sep. 2019 The move would help the president by buoying a constituency that is important for him politically and also increasingly opposed to the trade war. New York Times, "Trump Delays Planned Tariff Increase in ‘Gesture of Good Will’ to China," 11 Sep. 2019 This convergence of Bolsonaro’s attack on the Amazon and the US-China trade war driving up prices for agribusiness products from Brazil are really a perfect storm, helping to drive people to burn and grab land. William Thomson, Quartz, "To save our forests, give them back to the people they were stolen from," 5 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Greg’s had a relatively uneventful run of Season 2 so far; other than living in an apartment funded (and often, trashed) by Kendall, Greg’s biggest plot point revolves around his warring conscience. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "What Kind of Game Is Kendall Playing on Succession?," 2 Sep. 2019 The trouble lies with people regarding political affiliations as group identities, and their political parties as warring teams in a winner-take-all death match. Robert B. Talisse, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Political polarization is about feelings, not facts, and animosity is growing," 9 Aug. 2019 According to conventional wisdom, warring Maya kingdoms didn’t resort to that kind of total warfare until what’s called the Terminal Classic Period, from 800 to 950 CE. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Warring Maya kingdoms razed enemy cities to the ground," 6 Aug. 2019 Similarly, in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s Administration illegally and secretly diverted funds from arms sales to Iran to the Contra movement that warred against a left-wing regime in Nicaragua. James M. Banner Jr., Time, "Corruption, Cover-Ups and the Shocking Presidential History to Remember as Robert Mueller Testifies," 22 July 2019 Rather than bringing people together religion has often divided people into differing warring camps. The Rev. Dr. Wm. Louis "lou" Piel, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Piel: Don’t disregard healthy, authentic religion in spiritual search for answers," 7 Sep. 2019 One reason for that is the splintering of once-mighty cartels into warring factions, analysts say. Mary Beth Sheridan, BostonGlobe.com, "Mexican government says more than 3,000 hidden graves found in the search for the disappeared," 2 Sep. 2019 By remaining flexible, SB 100 created the coalition climate policy so badly needs Climate policy is notoriously fractious, with warring camps fighting over carbon taxes, nuclear power, renewables, and just about everything in between. David Roberts, Vox, "California is this close to its boldest energy target yet: 100% clean electricity," 31 Aug. 2018 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

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 2019

Time Traveler for war

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

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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

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).


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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