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I know that "wage war" is an idiomatic expression that the American Heritage Dictionary defines as:

To engage in (a war or campaign, for example).

and Dictionary.com defines as:

to carry on (a battle, war, conflict, argument, etc.): to wage war against a nation.

My question is: does "wage war" mean also 'declare war" or does it refer only to the development of war operations? (Sorry but I have this doubt).

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    No, you can wage an undeclared war, and you can declare a war but never actually wage it.
    – Hellion
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 17:51
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    To "wage war" means to engage in or to prosecute war. The relevant meaning that Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary gives is "to engage in or carry on." To "declare war" is simply to put an end to the normal, assumed state of peace between the declaring country and its enemy, by announcing an intention to begin armed hostilities (that is, war) against it.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 18:53
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    Examples: With the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan began to Wage [undeclared] War on the United States. Three days after Germany invaded Poland in in 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany. However, GB did not begin to wage war (commence actual fighting) until much later.
    – user597
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 4:15
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    This is a better fit for ELL, where it has already been well answered.
    – AndyT
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 15:54
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    This doesn't always refer to actual war between countries. Here is an example: "The government is doing all it can to wage war on dangerous driving." From what I know, it is used more metaphorically.
    – Alister
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:57

1 Answer 1

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To "declare war" is official and publicly announce that you are starting a war.

To "wage war" is to actively engage or participate in warfare, usually after it's already been declared.

So no, "wage war" is not synonymous with "declare war".


Google's definition for Declare:

say something in a solemn and emphatic manner.

"he declared that he never revises his prose"

Google's definition for Wage:

carry on (a war or campaign).

"it is necessary to destroy their capacity to wage war"

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  • This doesn't always refer to actual war between countries. Here is an example: "The government is doing all it can to wage war on dangerous driving." From what I know, it is used more metaphorically.
    – Alister
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:56

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