world war

a war that involves most of the principal nations of the world.

1910–15 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Word Origin & History

world war
first attested 1909 as a speculation, probably a translation of Ger. Weltkrieg. Applied to the first one soon after it began in 1914. World War I coined 1939, replacing Great War as the most common name for it; First World War first attested 1947. World War II so-called since 1939; Second World War is
from 1942.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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