American English

Definition of war noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[uncountable, countable] a situation in which two or more countries or groups of people fight against each other over a period of time World War II the threat of (a) nuclear war to win/lose a/the war the war betweenEngland and the American Colonies England's war with/against the American Colonies It was the year Britain declared war onGermany. Social and political problems led to the outbreak (= the beginning)of war. Where were you living when war broke out? The government does not want to go to war (= start a war) unless all other alternatives have failed. How long have they been at war? a war hero (formal) The Greeks waged war on Troy for ten years. Her husband was killed during the war. More troops are being dispatched to the war zone. (formal) the theater of war (= the area in which fighting takes place) see also civil war, cold war, postwar, prisoner of war, warring, world war
  2. 2[countable, uncountable] a situation in which there is aggressive competition between groups, companies, countries, etc. the class war a trade war see also price war
  3. 3[uncountable, singular] war (against/on somebody/something) a fight or an effort over a long period of time to get rid of or stop something unpleasant The government has declared war on drug dealers. We seem to be winning the war against crime. Thesauruscampaignbattle struggle drive war fightThese are all words for an effort made to achieve or prevent something.campaign a series of planned activities that are intended to achieve a particular social, commercial, or political aim:the campaign for health care reform an advertising campaignbattle a competition or argument between people or groups of people trying to win power or control:She finally won her legal battle. the endless battle between man and naturestruggle a competition or argument between people or groups of people trying to win power or control:the struggle for independence the struggle between good and evilbattle or struggle?These words are very similar and in many cases you can use either word. However, battle often refers to a shorter, more direct fight. A struggle may be a longer fight against powerful forces instead of individuals or one particular problem:the battle for the Republican nomination her long struggle for recognitiondrive an organized effort by a group of people to achieve something:the drive for success a drive to reduce energy consumption a major fund drivecampaign or drive?A campaign is usually an attempt to get other people to do something, that takes place over a period of time; a drive may be a shorter or more local effort. A campaign may be larger, more formal, and more organized than a drive.war [sing.] an effort over a long period of time to get rid of or stop something bad:the war against povertyfight [sing.] the work of trying to stop or prevent something bad or achieve something good; an act of competing, especially in a sport:Workers won their fight for better benefits and higher pay.war or fight?A war is about stopping things, like drugs and crime, that everyone agrees are bad. A fight can be about achieving justice for yourself.Patterns a campaign/battle/struggle/drive/war/fight against something a campaign/battle/struggle/drive/fight for something a one-man/one-woman/personal campaign/battle/struggle/war a bitter campaign/battle/struggle/drive/war/fight to launch/embark on a campaign/battle/drive to lead/continue the campaign/battle/struggle/drive/fight to win/lose a battle/struggle/war/fight
  4. Idioms
    all's fair in love and war (saying)
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    in some situations any type of behavior is acceptable to get what you want
    this means war! (informal)
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    used to say that you are ready to argue or defend yourself
    a war of nerves
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    an attempt to defeat your opponents by putting pressure on them so that they lose courage or confidence
    a war of words
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    a bitter argument or disagreement over a period of time between two or more people or groups the political war of words over tax
Topic CollocationsWar and Peacestarting a war declare/wage war (on somebody/something) go to war (against/with somebody) cause/spark/provoke/foment/quell unrest incite/lead/crush/suppress a revolt/rebellion launch/mount/carry out a surprise/terrorist attack prevent/halt/represent an escalation of the conflict be torn apart by/be on the brink of civil war enter/invade/occupy somebody's territory lead/launch/resist/repel an invasionmilitary operations adopt/develop/implement/pursue a military strategy carry out/execute/perform military operations/maneuvers send/deploy/station/pull back/withdraw troops go on/fly/carry out a reconnaissance/rescue mission train/equip/deploy army/military/combat units lead/launch/conduct an (air/airborne/amphibious) attack/a surprise attack (on somebody); an assault/a raid (on somebody) employ/use guerrilla tactics conduct/wage biological/guerrilla warfare fight/crush/defeat the rebels/the insurgency suffer/inflict a crushing defeat achieve/win a decisive victory halt/stop the American/German advance order/force a retreatfighting join/serve in the Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines/Coast Guard/reserves be/go/remain/serve on active duty do/complete/return from a tour of duty be sent to the front (line) attack/strike/engage/defeat/kill/destroy the enemy witness/see/report/be engaged in heavy fighting call for/be met with armed resistance come under heavy/machine-gun/mortar fire fire a machine gun/mortar shells/rockets (at somebody/something) shoot a rifle/a pistol/bullets/missiles launch/fire a(n) cruise/ballistic/anti-tank missile use biological/chemical/nuclear weapons inflict/suffer/sustain heavy losses/casualties be hit/killed by enemy/friendly/artillery fire become/be held as/be taken as a prisoner of warcivilians in war harm/kill/target/protect innocent/unarmed civilians cause/avoid/limit/minimize civilian casualties/collateral damage impose/enforce/lift a curfew engage in/be a victim of ethnic cleansing be sent to a concentration/an internment camp accept/house/resettle/turn away refugees fleeing from war fear/threaten military/violent reprisals commit/be accused of war crimes/crimes against humanity/genocidemaking peace make/bring/win/achieve/maintain/promote peace call for/negotiate/broker/declare a ceasefire/a temporary truce sign a ceasefire agreement call for/bring/put an end to hostilities demand/negotiate/accept the surrender of somebody/something establish/send (in) a peacekeeping force negotiate/conclude/ratify/sign/accept/reject/break/violate a peace treaty
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: war