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.

  • 2
    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. – Daniel G. Wilson Oct 20 '11 at 0:52
  • 3
    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. – Daniel G. Wilson Oct 20 '11 at 1:03
  • 1
    You could just say the Athenians and the Spartans. – Sam Oct 20 '11 at 3:01
up vote 18 down vote accepted

I like this one: belligerents.

  • +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
  • 2
    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

opponents

or

combatants

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

  • 1
    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
  • 1
    @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
  • 3
    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

Adversaries is another option.

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.

Some options are the following ones:

  • opposing forces
  • opposing armies
  • participants
  • 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

Another term you could use is "opposing factions."

  • 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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