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What word would I use when describing two opposing sides in a war?

Assuming I want to refer to them in a manner similar to the following:

Comparing/contrasting the ____'s of the war.

Using opposing sides lacks eloquence in my opinion. I'm also open to rewording the above so that opposing sides is not needed.

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I would not call opposing sides lacking in eloquence. –  Daniel Oct 20 '11 at 0:46
    
"Contrasting the opposing sides of the Peloponnesian war" seems to be a clunky title for a formal paper to me. –  XenElement Oct 20 '11 at 0:52
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Really? I would say it sounds quite good. –  Daniel Oct 20 '11 at 0:53
    
Perhaps it's that simple then. The first answer is often the best. –  XenElement Oct 20 '11 at 1:03
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You could just say the Athenians and the Spartans. –  Sam Oct 20 '11 at 3:01
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6 Answers 6

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I like this one: belligerents.

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+1 This is what Wikipedia uses to list a war's participants: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II –  Hugo Oct 20 '11 at 6:12
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Looking further, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belligerent indicates that this is actually the UN/internationally accepted word. –  edA-qa mort-ora-y Oct 20 '11 at 12:39
    
In (for example) histories of WWII, the allies are sometimes referred to as "co-belligerents". –  mickeyf Oct 20 '11 at 13:50
    
@mickeyf I thought that "co-belligerent" was used to describe nations that are not allied with each other, but share a common enemy [like Finland and Germany vs USSR] –  Random832 Oct 20 '11 at 14:36
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Some options are the following ones:

  • opposing forces
  • opposing armies
  • participants
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FWIW: OpFor (short for "opposing force") is used in wargames to designate the enemy combatants being, um, simulated. –  wfaulk Nov 18 '11 at 23:53
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Another term you could use is "opposing factions."

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I think "faction" suggests the two sides are more closely related than, say, two countries, so it's applicable only in a subset of cases. –  skst Oct 27 '11 at 12:40
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You can use "belligerents" as in...

Comparing and contrasting the belligerents of the war.

You can also use factions, but that usually connotes something other than nation-states fighting.

Comparing and contrasting the warring factions.

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Adversaries is another option.

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opponents

or

combatants

equally include both sides in any kind of, well, opposition.

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Comparing the opponents of the war is ambiguous, though. Be careful that it doesn't come across as meaning Comparing those who oppose the war. –  Daniel Oct 20 '11 at 0:55
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@drɱ65δ: good point. 'Opponents to the war' is not ambiguous but it is for the meaning you give. 'Opponents in the war' would be ambiguous for the original question. –  Mitch Oct 20 '11 at 1:12
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Opponents seems too mild a word for war. Like they could playing table tennis. –  Sam Oct 20 '11 at 2:48
    
@Sam If only they had played table tennis instead... –  Hugo Oct 20 '11 at 6:13
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Combatants seems to imply the actual individuals involved in front-line fighting, as say opposed to the politicians who stand behind them. –  edA-qa mort-ora-y Oct 20 '11 at 12:38
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