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)

Keep scrolling for more

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


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For decades, Saudi Arabia has been the oil market’s great stabilizer, maintaining a large cushion of spare production capacity that can be tapped in emergencies, such as the 2011 war in Libya. Fortune, "Saudi Arabia Has Few Options to Replace the Massive Drop in Oil Output From Its Attacked Plant," 17 Sep. 2019 But perhaps her best turn came in 2001, when she was asked to host the ceremony after it had been twice postponed, first due to 9/11, then because of the start of the war in Afghanistan. Jodi Guglielmi, PEOPLE.com, "The Best Emmys Hosts of All Time, from Ellen DeGeneres to Neil Patrick Harris," 16 Sep. 2019 From August 2010 until March 2014, his final years in uniform, Mattis headed U.S. Central Command and oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other military operations in the Middle East. W.j. Hennigan, Time, "James Mattis on Why Call Sign Chaos Isn't a Political Book About the Trump Administration," 14 Sep. 2019 Since the start of the war in 2015, Houthi rebels have been using drones in combat. Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY, "Drone attack by Yemeni rebels sets off fires at major Saudi Arabian oil facilities," 14 Sep. 2019 On the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan, the commander-in-chief is particularly fickle. The Economist, "On the war in Afghanistan, Donald Trump seems out of step with his voters," 12 Sep. 2019 Power wars in Asia India continues to feel pressure from its Chinese neighbour. Wendy Whitman Cobb, Quartz India, "Glitches aside, the Moon mission may deepen India’s space rivalry with China," 11 Sep. 2019 Clearly, some big market participants were anticipating slower growth, especially in the face of the US-China trade war. Wired, "What Recession? Low Interest Rates Could Mean Tech-Fueled Growth," 4 Sep. 2019 What’s certain, however, is that sooner or later, either companies or consumers or both groups will feel the effects of the trade war in their profits, purchasing power, and economic prospects. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "These China-made goods will soon cost more thanks to Trump’s tariffs," 31 Aug. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about war

Statistics for war

Last Updated

7 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for war

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


friendly or mild

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!