noun, adjective

Related formsgue·ril·la·ism, noun


or gue·ril·la



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 formsguer·ril·la·ism, nounan·ti·guer·ril·la, noun, adjectivecoun·ter·guer·ril·la, adjective
Can be confusedgorilla guerrilla Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for guerilla

Contemporary Examples of guerilla

Historical Examples of guerilla

  • While we were seated at supper, I asked my uncle what he knew of the guerilla chief whose acquaintance we had just made.

    The Young Llanero

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • Guerilla warfare, should it be persisted in, would lead to reprisals, and you could not blame us for your sufferings.

  • Also, I owe much to the guerilla chief Moras, with whom I acted for six weeks, last autumn.

  • "You can take these guerilla prisoners off our hands, for they are a nuisance to us," replied Captain Gordon with a smile.

  • Mejas plan was to conduct a guerilla warfare, save the army from further disgrace in the field, and make a stand at Monterey.

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 cloversCompare phalanx
Derived Formsguerrillaism or guerillaism, noun

Word Origin for guerrilla

C19: from Spanish, diminutive of guerra war
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

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