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
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 0:46
  • "Contrasting the opposing sides of the Peloponnesian war" seems to be a clunky title for a formal paper to me. Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 0:52
  • 3
    Really? I would say it sounds quite good.
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 0:53
  • Perhaps it's that simple then. The first answer is often the best. Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 1:03
  • 1
    You could just say the Athenians and the Spartans.
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 3:01

7 Answers 7


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
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 6:12
  • 3
    Looking further, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belligerent indicates that this is actually the UN/internationally accepted word. Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 12:39
  • In (for example) histories of WWII, the allies are sometimes referred to as "co-belligerents".
    – user597
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 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
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 14:36




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
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 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
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 1:12
  • 1
    Opponents seems too mild a word for war. Like they could playing table tennis.
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 2:48
  • @Sam If only they had played table tennis instead...
    – Hugo
    Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 6:13
  • 4
    Combatants seems to imply the actual individuals involved in front-line fighting, as say opposed to the politicians who stand behind them. Commented Oct 20, 2011 at 12:38

Adversaries is another option.


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
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 23:53

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.


I'm a bit late to this thread and new to this site. I hope I'm not breaking any rules by reviving this subject....

foes, adversaries, partisans

  • Word request answers require citations from reputable dictionaries.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 21:42

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
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 12:40

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