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[wawr] /wɔr/
a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation; warfare, as by land, sea, or air.
a state or period of armed hostility or active military operations:
The two nations were at war with each other.
a contest carried on by force of arms, as in a series of battles or campaigns:
the War of 1812.
armed fighting, as a science, profession, activity, or art; methods or principles of waging armed conflict:
War is the soldier's business.
active hostility or contention; conflict; contest:
a war of words.
aggressive business conflict, as through severe price cutting in the same industry or any other means of undermining competitors:
a fare war among airlines; a trade war between nations.
a struggle to achieve a goal: the war on cancer; a war against poverty;
a war for hearts and minds.
  1. a game for two or more persons, played with a 52-card pack evenly divided between the players, in which each player turns up one card at a time with the higher card taking the lower, and in which, when both turned up cards match, each player lays one card face down and turns up another, the player with the higher card of the second turn taking all the cards laid down.
  2. an occasion in this game when both turned up cards match.
Archaic. a battle.
verb (used without object), warred, warring.
to make or carry on war; fight:
to war with a neighboring nation.
to carry on active hostility or contention:
Throughout her life she warred with sin and corruption.
to be in conflict or in a state of strong opposition:
The temptation warred with his conscience.
of, belonging to, used in, or due to war:
war preparations; war hysteria.
Origin of war1
late Old English
before 1150; (noun) Middle English, late Old English werre < Old North French < Germanic; cognate with Old High German werra strife; (v.) Middle English, late Old English werrien (transitive) to make war upon, derivative of the noun; compare Old French guerrer, Old North French werreier; akin to war2
Can be confused
war, wore.


[wahr] /wɑr/
adjective, adverb, Scot. and North England.
1150-1200; Middle English werre < Old Norse verri worse


1. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for war


open armed conflict between two or more parties, nations, or states related adjectives belligerent martial
a particular armed conflict: the 1973 war in the Middle East
the techniques of armed conflict as a study, science, or profession
any conflict or contest: a war of wits, the war against crime
(modifier) of, relating to, resulting from, or characteristic of war: a war hero, war damage, a war story
to have had a good war, to have made the most of the opportunities presented to one during wartime
(informal) in the wars, (esp of a child) hurt or knocked about, esp as a result of quarrelling and fighting
verb wars, warring, warred
(intransitive) to conduct a war
Word Origin
C12: from Old Northern French werre (variant of Old French guerre), of Germanic origin; related to Old High German werra


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 war

late Old English (c.1050), wyrre, werre, from Old North French werre "war" (Modern French guerre), from Frankish *werra, from Proto-Germanic *werso (cf. Old Saxon werran, Old High German werran, German verwirren "to confuse, perplex"). Cognates suggest the original sense was "to bring into confusion."

Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian guerra are from the same source; Romanic peoples turned to Germanic for a word to avoid Latin bellum because its form tended to merge with bello- "beautiful." There was no common Germanic word for "war" at the dawn of historical times. Old English had many poetic words for "war" (wig, guð, heaðo, hild, all common in personal names), but the usual one to translate Latin bellum was gewin "struggle, strife" (related to win).

First record of war time is late 14c. Warpath (1775) is originally in reference to North American Indians, as are war-whoop (1761), war-paint (1826), and war-dance (1757). War crime first attested 1906. War chest is attested from 1901; now usually figurative. War games translates German Kriegspiel (see kriegspiel).


"to make war on," mid-12c.; see war (n.). Related: Warred; warring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for war


Related Terms

hot war, psywar, shooting war

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with war
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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