war of nerves

war of nerves

noun
a conflict using psychological techniques, as propaganda, threats, and false rumors, rather than direct violence, in order to confuse, thwart, or intimidate an enemy.

Origin:
1935–40

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World English Dictionary
war of nerves
 
n
the use of psychological tactics against an opponent, such as shattering his morale by the use of propaganda

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

war of nerves

A conflict characterized by psychological pressure such as threats and rumors, aiming to undermine an enemy's morale. For example, Her lawyer said the university had waged a war of nerves to persuade his client to resign. This expression alludes to tactics used in World War II. [Late 1930s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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