This is a list of established military terms
which have been in use for at least 50 years. Technology has changed so not all of them are in current use, or they may have been superseded by more modern ones. However they are still in current use in articles about previous military periods. Some of them like Camouflet
have been adapted to describe modern versions of old techniques.
Describes terms related to military organisations or institutions.
- safeguard - "Safeguard. A safeguard is a detachment, guard, or detail posted by a commander for the protection of persons, places, or property of the enemy, or of a neutral affected by the relationship of belligerent forces in their prosecution of war or during circumstances amounting to a state of belligerency. The term also includes a written order left by a commander with an enemy subject or posted upon enemy property for the protection of that person or property. A safeguard is not a device adopted by a belligerent to protect its own property or nationals or to ensure order within its own forces, even if those forces are in a theater of combat operations, and the posting of guards or of off-limits signs does not establish a safeguard unless a commander takes those actions to protect enemy or neutral persons or property. The effect of a safeguard is to pledge the honor of the nation that the person or property shall be respected by the national armed forces.
- forcing a safe-guard (1770-1785 period) -
Safe-guard, in military affairs, a protection granted by a prince or
general, for some of the enemy's lands, houses, persons, &c. to preserve them from being insulted or plundered.
- safe-guards were individual soldiers or detachments placed to prevent places (often farms full of tasty crops and livestock) from being plundered. Forcing a safe-guard was the crime of overpowering a safe-guard. Safe-guards were often individual soldiers assigned to watch over an entire farm, so it only took a few marauders to "force" him.
- forcing a safeguard (current) - Forcing a safeguard. “Forcing a safeguard” means to perform an act or acts in violation of the protection of the safeguard.
Describes terms that are used to administer military forces.
Describe terms used in military technology fields, but are not specific to conflicts in any one environment.
Describe terms used either exclusively or predominantly in land warfare.
- No man's land is a term for land that is not occupied or more specifically land that is under dispute between countries or areas that will not occupy it because of fear or uncertainty.
Arms and Services
Describe terms used for combat Arms and supporting Services of armed forces used in land warfare.
- Artillery refers to any engine used for the discharge of large projectiles in war. In military terminology, a unit of artillery is
- Artillery battery, an organized group of artillery pieces.
- Also see below Artillery
Describes terms used for talking about how armed forces are used.
Many of the terms below can be applied to combat in other environments although most often used in reference to land warfare.
- Ambush To make a surprise attack on an enemy that passes a concealed position.
- Barrage (artillery) is a line or barrier of exploding artillery shells, created by the co-ordinated targeting of a large number of guns firing continuously.
- Booby traps
- Breach (military) in fortified lines or a battle line.
- Breakout (military)
- Bridgehead and its varieties known as Beachhead and Airhead
- Charge (warfare)
- Column (formation)
- Counter attack
- Counter battery fire
- Coup de grâce a death blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded man; also applied to ships (though more commonly called scuttling in that connection)
- Coup de Main, a swift pre-emptive strike.
- Echelon formation a military formation in which members are arranged diagonally
- Defilade A unit or position is "defiladed" if it is protected from direct exposure to enemy fire. See also Hull-down
- Enfilade A unit (or position) is "in enfilade" if enemy fire can be directed along the long axis of the unit. For instance, a trench is enfiladed if the enemy can fire down the length of the trench. Also, to place a unit in a position to enfilade, or the position so enfiladed.
- Fabian strategy, avoiding pitched battles to wear down the enemy in a war of attrition
- File (formation) single column of soldiers
- Flank, to attack an enemy or an enemy unit from the side, or to maneuver to do so.
- Frontal assault
- Guerilla tactics attack the enemy, then retreat, hit-and-run
- Hors de combat, out of the fight, surrendered, wounded, and so on.
- Killing field
- Lodgement, an enclave made by increasing the size of a bridgehead
- Infantry square, Pike square, or Schiltron
- Interdiction, to attack and interrupt enemy supply lines.
- Melee (also Mêlée)
- No quarter, or "Take no prisoners," or "no mercy," or "kill them all": all enemy troops are to be killed, even those who surrender. It is now a war crime to give such an order. (This crime is still committed, in some wars.)
- Overwatch when one small unit can support another.
- Parthian shot
- Pickets, sentries or advance troops whose job is to warn of contact with the enemy. A soldier who has this job is on "picket duty".
- Pincer maneuver
- Pitched battle
- Pyrrhic Victory
- Rank (formation) single line of soldiers
- Retreat (military)
- Sack The deliberate destruction and/or looting of a city usually after an assault.
- Salients The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant.
- Scorched earth
- Scuttling The deliberate destruction of a ship to prevent its capture and use by an enemy. Commonly used as a coup de grâce, but has also been a protest (as after the First World War).
- Shield wall
- Shoot and scoot - type of fire and movement tactic used by artillery to avoid counter-battery fire. (This term is primarily used by American forces.)
- Siege, is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition, often accompanied by an assault.
- circumvallation, a line of fortifications, built by the attackers around the besieged fortification facing towards the enemy fort
- contravallation, a second line of fortifications behind the circumvallation facing away from the enemy fort to protect the besiegers from attacks by allies of the besieged.
- escalade, the act of scaling defensive walls or ramparts with the aid of ladders, and was a prominent feature of siege warfare in medieval times.
- Forlorn hope, most frequently used to refer to the first wave of soldiers attacking a breach in defences during a siege.
- Chevaux de frise, sword blades chained together to cut up people trying to charge into a breach in the walls.
- Investment, surrounding an enemy fort (or town) with armed forces to prevent entry or escape.
- parallel trenches
- Siege engines, specialised weapons used to overcome fortifications of a besieged fort or town; in modern times, the task has fallen to large artillery pieces.
- Siege train, specialised siege artillery accompanying an army for use in a siege.
- Siege tower, a wooden tower on wheels constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification.
- Storm to move quickly and noisily like a storm
- Sortie, also "to sally". A sudden attack against a besieging enemy from within a besieged fort or town.
- Surrender at discretion means unconditional surrender instead of surrendering with terms.
- Withdrawal (military), generally meaning pulling forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy.
Describes terms used in identification of means of combat to inflict damage on the opponent.
Weapons that are used to inflict damage through cutting or stabbing.
Munitions are ordnances that inflict damage through impact.
Crew-served, non-vehicle mounted weapons.
Describes ordnance that cause damage through release of force.
Describes ordnance that causes damage through release of heat.
Describes vehicles used by armed forces that mount weapons.
Describes terms used in military engineering.
- See also List of fortifications
- Barbed wire
- Banquette or a fire step
- Bastion fortress (see below star fort and Trace italienne)
- Breastwork (fortification)
- Counterscarp, is the side of a ditch, in front of the wall of a fortress, furthest from the wall.
- Dragon's teeth
- Defensive fighting position a Rifle pit or Fox hole
- Hill fort (New Zealand Pa (Māori))
- Lunette (fortification), an outwork consisting of a salient angle with two flanks and an open gorge.
- Mine is a siege method used since antiquity against a walled city, fortress or castle where tunnels are dug to undermine the foundations of the walls. A counter mine is a tunnel dug by the defenders below an attackers mine with the intention of undermining the attackers mine before it undermines the walls.
- Outwork, a minor defence, built or established outside the principal fortification limits, detached or semidetached.
- Ravelin, a triangular fortification, detached outwork in front of the bastions.
- Redan is a V-shaped salient angle toward an expected attack. It can be made from earthworks or other material.
- Redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, though others are constructed of stone or brick.
- Reduit is the strongest fortification which should provide protection during a persistent attack. A citadel, for example, is the reduit in classical fortifications.
- Sangar (fortification), a small temporary fortified position with a breastwork originally of stone, but now built of sandbags and similar materials.
- Sally port also "to sally" out and Sortie
- Scarp (fortification) fortress side of a ditch in front of a wall.
- Sconce (fortification), a small protective fortification, such as an earthwork often placed on a mound as a defensive work for artillery.
- Slighting is the deliberate destruction of a fortification without opposition from its builders or its last users.
- Star fort (see above Bastion fortressand below Trace italienne)
- tête-de-pont a temporary defensive work to defend a bridge, at the end of a bridge adjacent to an enemy.
- Trace italienne. Star-shaped fortresses surrounding towns and even cities (see above Star fort and Bastion fortress)
- Defile (geography) is a geographic term for a narrow pass or gorge between mountains. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front.
- debouch, to emerge from a defile (or something similar) into open country (debouch can also be used to describe water that flows out of a defile into a wider place such as a lake) and so a fortification at the end of a defile is sometimes known as a debouch.
Arms and Services
Describe terms used for combat Arms and supporting Services of armed forces used in naval warfare.
Describes terms used for talking about how naval armed forces are used.
Arms and Services
Describe terms used for combat Arms and supporting Services of armed forces used in air warfare.
- Sortie used by air forces to indicate an aircraft mission count (flew seven sorties) or in the sense of a departure (the aircraft sortied).
Describes terms used for talking about how aviation armed forces are used.