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From Middle English werre, from Late Old English werrewyrre (armed conflict) from Old Northern French werre (compare Old French guerre, whence modern French guerre), from Medieval Latin werra, from Frankish *werru (confusion; quarrel), from Proto-Indo-European *wers- (to mix up, confuse, beat, thresh). Displaced native Old English ġewinn.

Akin to Old High German werra (confusion, strife, quarrel) and German verwirren (to confuse)Old Saxon werran (to confuse, perplex)Dutch war (confusion, disarray)West Frisian war (defense, self-defense, struggle”, also “confusion)Old English wyrsa, wiersa (worse)Old Norse verri (worse, orig. confounded, mixed up).


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key)/wɔː/
  • (General American) IPA(key)/wɔɹ/
  • Homophones: worewor (some dialects)
  • Rhymes: -ɔː(ɹ)
  • (obsolete) IPA(key)/wɑɹ/


war (countable and uncountableplural wars)

  1. (uncountable) Organized, large-scale, armed conflict between countries or between national, ethnic, or other sizeable groups, usually but not always involving active engagement of military forces.
    holy war… just war… civil war
  2. (countable) A particular conflict of this kind.
    war of succession… a war of attrition… the Cold War… World War III…
  3. (countable, sometimes proscribed) Protracted armed conflict against irregular forces, particularly groups considered terrorists.
    the Great Emu War… the Global War on Terrorism…
  4. (countable, by extension) Any protracted conflict, particularly
    1. (chiefly US) Campaigns against various social problems.
      the War on Poverty… the War on Drugs… the War on Christmas…
    2. (business) A protracted instance of fierce competition in trade.
      price wars… Cola Wars… format wars
    3. (crime) A prolonged conflict between two groups of organized criminals, usually over organizational or territorial control.
      turf war… gang war… Castellammarese War
  5. (obsolete, uncountable) An assembly of weapons, instruments of war.
  6. (obsolete) Armed forces.
  7. (uncountable, card games) Any of a family of card games where all cards are dealt at the beginning of play and players attempt to capture them all, typically involving no skill and only serving to kill time.


war (third-person singular simple present warspresent participle warringsimple past and past participle warred)

  1. (intransitive) To engage in conflict (may be followed by “with” to specify the foe).
  2. (transitive) To carry on, as a contest; to wage.

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