a. A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties.
b. The period of such conflict.
c. The techniques and procedures of war; military science.
a. A condition of active antagonism or contention: a war of words; a price war.
b. A concerted effort or campaign to combat or put an end to something considered injurious: the war against acid rain.
intr.v. warred, war·ring, warsIdiom:
1. To wage or carry on warfare.
2. To be in a state of hostility or rivalry; contend.
In an active state of conflict or contention.
[Middle English werre, from Old North French, of Germanic origin; see wers- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Word History: War can be traced back to the Indo-European root *wers–, "to confuse, mix up." In the Germanic family of the Indo-European languages, this root gave rise to several words having to do with confusion or mixture of various kinds. One was the noun *werza–, "confusion," which in a later form *werra– was borrowed into Old French, probably from Frankish, a largely unrecorded Germanic language that contributed about 200 words to the vocabulary of Old French. From the Germanic stem came both the form werre in Old North French, the form borrowed into English in the 1100s, and guerre (also the source of guerrilla) in the rest of the Old French–speaking area. Both forms meant "war." Meanwhile another form derived from the same Indo-European root had developed into a word denoting a more benign kind of mixture, Old High German wurst, meaning "sausage." Modern German Wurst was borrowed into English in the 1800s.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.