a holy war undertaken as a sacred duty by Muslims.
any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle.
Also, jehad.

1865–70; < Arabic jihād struggle, strife

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World English Dictionary
jihad or jehad (dʒɪˈhæd)
1.  Islam a holy war against infidels undertaken by Muslims in defence of the Islamic faith
2.  Islam the personal struggle of the individual believer against evil and persecution
3.  rare a crusade in support of a cause
[C19: from Arabic jihād a conflict]
jehad or jehad
[C19: from Arabic jihād a conflict]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1869, from Ar., usually translated as "holy war," lit. "struggle, contest, effort," from inf. of jahada "he waged war, he applied himself to." Used for any doctrinal crusade since c.1880.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary
jihad [(ji-hahd, ji-had)]

In Islam, a holy war; a war ordained by God. The Koran teaches that soldiers who die in jihad go to heaven immediately.

Note: Modern-day terrorists often claim that they are carrying out acts of destruction, such as the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, as part of a jihad.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences for jihad
A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid, the plural is mujahideen.
The relative importance of these two forms of jihad is a matter of controversy.
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