World War I

or WWI or the first World War

[wurld wawr wuhn]

What does World War I mean?

World War I was a massive military conflict in Europe between 1914–18. Joining France and Great Britain, the US fought on the Allied side against the German and Austria-Hungary empires.

It's remembered for its military technology, such as tanks and mustard gas, which led to a death toll the world had never seen before, estimated at over 15 million.

Related words:

Examples of World War I


Examples of World War I
In 1918, Hine was hired by the American Red Cross to document their work in Europe, as they provided aid to wounded soldiers and refugees affected by World War I.
Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, May, 2018
Someone on the far progressive Left just suggested this to me via DM & I love it: @Political_Beats is basically the World War 1 "Christmas Truce" of our current American political age. We just want to play football in this small space and not worry about gunning each other down.
@EsotericCD, May, 2018
World War I, the war that was originally expected to be “over by Christmas,” dragged on for four years with a grim brutality brought on by the dawn of trench warfare and advanced weapons, including chemical weapons. The horrors of that conflict altered the world for decades – and writers reflected that shifted outlook in their work. As Virginia Woolf would later write, “Then suddenly, like a chasm in a smooth road, the war came.
Amanda Onion, History, April, 2018

Where does World War I come from?

World War I

Long-simmering tensions between European countries boiled over into World War I with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by a Serbian nationalist group known as the Black Hand. The event escalated into all-out war between what came to be called the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire) and the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan and later the United States). A previously isolationist United States joined the war in 1917, a hotly debated move that was motivated by the threat of German submarines to US sea vessels.

World War I ended with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 when the Central Powers officially surrendered to the Allies. The trauma of World War I would echo throughout Europe for decades after, however. In Germany alone, economic sanctions imposed by the Allied Powers led to crippling inflation and very low public morale, conditions that Adolf Hitler exploited—leading to World War II.


The term World War I was used as early as 1939 during the outbreak of World War II (a term which, interestingly, was used hypothetically as early as 1919). The phrase aimed to capture the extensive geopolitical reach of the war, fought by world powers on several continents and affecting economies across the globe.

World War I is notorious for the tremendous carnage and horrific destruction it wreaked in Europe. Trench warfare—which involved digging trenches near enemy lines and attempting to fire on or charge the other side—led to rampant disease, death and injury, and psychological damage in soldiers. Chemical warfare was also introduced, as both sides used agents such as mustard and chlorine gas to blind and debilitate enemy soldiers. The war also caused widespread famine and disease on the European continent off the battlegrounds.

World War I is also acnowledged as major turning point in social and technological developments. With men fighting, an influx of women entered the workforce. As nationalism heightened, interest in intergovernmental organizations also grew and the US started emerging as a superpower. The introduction of tanks, battleships, military aircraft, machine guns, and other military technology changed the face of modern warfare.

Who uses World War I?

World War I inspired many works of art, including the books and films All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms, the film Lawrence of Arabia, the play War Horse, and paintings by John Nash.

Outside of its wide discussion in political and military history, World War I is popularly recognized by the images of trenches, its military technology, and haunting scenes of its violent aftermath.

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