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

He was then interrogated for multiple days, with the discussion hitting on the trade war and souring relations between the United States and China. New York Times, "A Koch Executive’s Harassment in China Adds to Fears Among Visitors," 11 July 2019 In Omar’s version, America isn’t the big hearted country that saved her from a brutal war and a bleak refugee camp. Joey Morona, cleveland.com, "Ilhan Omar says Fox News’ Tucker Carlson is ‘a racist fool’ after he called her living proof U.S. immigration laws are ‘dangerous’," 10 July 2019 Leaders tend to use language associated with war and violence. Marisa Peryer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Controversial anti-abortion group coming to Milwaukee to 'storm the gates of hell'," 9 July 2019 The border was formally designated by the Boundary Commission established after the 1998–2000 border war. Martin Plaut, Quartz Africa, "The glow of the historic accord between Ethiopia and Eritrea has faded," 9 July 2019 That’s three times more deaths than from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, and 15 times more than from wars and other violence. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "A Global Pollution Observatory Hunts for Hidden Killers," 8 July 2019 The final season will be rocked by war and revolution. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Comic-Con Saturday schedule: Marvel Studios returns to Hall H," 6 July 2019 Investors are still worried about the US multi-front trade war and the impact that's having on China's and Europe's economies. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "Dow falls on solid jobs report, because good news is bad news for stocks," 5 July 2019 Last month’s burst of hiring suggests that many employers have shrugged off concerns about weaker growth, President Donald Trump’s trade wars and the waning benefits from U.S. tax cuts. Time, "U.S. Hiring Rises Sharply in June as Employers Add 224,000 More Jobs," 5 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

An All-Afghan conference that brought Afghanistan’s warring sides together appears to get the country a step closer to peace with a statement that laid out the foundations for a roadmap to end to nearly 18 years of war. Washington Post, "All-Afghan conference brings country closer to peace," 9 July 2019 No one yet has claimed responsibility for the airstrike, which comes as Libya is split between two warring governments, each backed by militias that control different cities and towns. Greg Norman | Fox News, Fox News, "Airstrike in Libya flattens migrant detention center, killing at least 44," 4 July 2019 All this while Norcross is openly warring with New Jersey’s Democratic governor (who has been actively campaigning for Booker this whole time). Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "Cory Booker Chooses the Wrong Side in a New Jersey Street Fight," 26 June 2019 And for all the laughs and love, and for going to war together on all the bad s—, always. Alexia Fernandez, PEOPLE.com, "Kate Beckinsale Pays Tribute to Her Late Dad Richard in Sweet Father's Day Post," 17 June 2019 Weiner artfully presents two of the warring identities women often embody: rebel and people pleaser. Patty Rhule, USA TODAY, "Jennifer Weiner's 'Mrs. Everything' explores broken dreams in the era of women's lib," 10 June 2019 Germany and France, which have led diplomatic efforts for years trying to ease tensions between warring neighbors Ukraine and Russia, are following the election closely. Geir Moulson, The Seattle Times, "France’s Macron meets Ukraine’s 2 presidential contenders," 12 Apr. 2019 Brexit has split the Conservatives into warring factions, but the candidates for party leader hope that a sprinkle of tax cuts and other acts of fiscal generosity can bring them together. Eshe Nelson, Quartz, "The UK Conservative party has lost its bloody mind (fiscally speaking)," 13 June 2019 As if convincing the heads of MS-13 and Barrio 18 to negotiate were not enough of a challenge, Mijango also had to make sure the warring factions within the two gangs, particularly Barrio 18’s Revolucionarios and Sureños, were on board. Daniel Castro, Harper's magazine, "The Truce," 10 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

14 Jul 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

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