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[guh-ril-uh] /gəˈrɪl ə/
noun, adjective
Related forms
guerillaism, noun


or guerilla

[guh-ril-uh] /gəˈrɪl ə/
a member of a band of irregular soldiers that uses guerrilla warfare, harassing the enemy by surprise raids, sabotaging communication and supply lines, etc.
pertaining to such fighters or their technique of warfare:
guerrilla strongholds; guerrilla tactics.
Origin of guerrilla
1800-10; < Spanish, diminutive of guerra war (< Germanic; cf. war1); orig. in reference to the Spanish resistance against Napoleon; the name for the struggle erroneously taken as a personal noun
Related forms
guerrillaism, noun
antiguerrilla, noun, adjective
counterguerrilla, adjective
Can be confused
gorilla, guerrilla. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for guerilla
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Dick believed from his gesture that he did not like the guerilla leader, or at least he hoped so.

    The Rock of Chickamauga Joseph A. Altsheler
  • No, he's Federal, Confederate or guerilla as it may suit his bloody ends.

    The Cavalier George Washington Cable
  • His company was sent to break up a band of guerilla rancheros at Antigua.

    The Strollers Frederic S. Isham
  • These places have been occupied for some time past by Mosby's guerilla bands.

  • He did not at all correspond with Terence's ideas of a guerilla chief.

British Dictionary definitions for guerilla


  1. a member of an irregular usually politically motivated armed force that combats stronger regular forces, such as the army or police
  2. (as modifier): guerrilla warfare
a form of vegetative spread in which the advance is from several individual rhizomes or stolons growing rapidly away from the centre, as in some clovers Compare phalanx
Derived Forms
guerrillaism, guerillaism, noun
Word Origin
C19: from Spanish, diminutive of guerrawar
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for guerilla

variant of guerrilla (q.v.); cf. French guérilla.



"fighter in an irregular, independent armed force," 1809, from Spanish guerrilla "body of skirmishers, skirmishing warfare," literally "little war," diminutive of guerra "war," from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German werra "strife, conflict, war;" see war). Figurative use by 1861. As an adjective from 1811. Acquired by English during the Peninsular War (1808-1814); purists failed in their attempt to keep this word restricted to "irregular warfare" and prevent it taking on the sense properly belonging to guerrillero "guerrilla fighter."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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