Military Wiki

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 Technology has changed so not all of them are in current use, or they may have been superseded by more modern ones.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.



  • 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."[1]
  • 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.[2]

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.[1]




  • No man's land is 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

  • Artillery includes any engine used for the discharge of large projectiles in war. In military terminology, a unit of artillery is
  • An artillery battery is an organized group of artillery pieces.
  • Also see below Artillery


These terms are 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.
  • Blockade - a ring of naval vessels surrounding a specific port or even an entire nation. The goal is to halt the importation of goods which could help the blockaded nation's war effort.
  • Booby trap
  • Breach (military) in fortified lines or a battle line.
  • Breakout (military): exploiting a breach in enemy lines so a large force (division or above) pass through
  • Bridgehead and its varieties known as Beachhead and Airhead
  • Charge (warfare): A large force heads directly to an enemy to engage in close quarters combat, with the hope of breaking the enemy line
  • Column (formation)
  • Counterattack
  • Counter battery fire
  • Coup de grâce a death blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded man; also applied to severely damaged ships (called scuttling when applied to friendly ships)
  • Coup de Main, a swift pre-emptive strike.
  • Decisive victory - an overwhelming victory for one side that often shifts the course of a conflict.
  • 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
  • Encirclement
  • 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.
  • Extraction point
  • Envelope
  • 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
  • Infiltration
  • 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.
  • Overwatch when one small unit can support another.
  • Patrolling
  • Parthian shot
  • Pickets (or picquets), 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
  • Phalanx
  • Pocket
  • Pyrrhic victory - Often a costly victory for one side that could eventually lead to defeat.
  • Raiding
  • Rank (formation) single line of soldiers
  • Reconnaissance
  • Retreat (military) - Withdrawal of troops from a battlefield to a better defensive position.
  • Rout
  • 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.
  • Skirmish
  • Withdrawal (military), generally meaning pulling forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy.


These terms are used in identification of means of combat to inflict damage on the opponent.


Weapons that are used to inflict damage through cutting or stabbing.

Projectile munitions

Munitions are ordnances that inflict damage through impact.




Crew-served, non-vehicle mounted weapons.



Explosives comprise ordnance that causes damage through release of force.

  • Shell (weapon)


Incendiary ordnance causes damage through release of heat.



See also List of fortifications
  • Fortification
  • Barbed wire
  • Banquette or a fire step
  • Bastion
  • Bastion fortress (see below star fort and Trace italienne)
  • Berm
  • Blockhouse
  • Breastwork (fortification)
  • Bulwark
  • Bunker: A heavily fortified underground or partially underground facility. Used for defensive positions, they are also commonly used as command centers for high-level officers.
  • Counterscarp, is the side of a ditch, in front of the wall of a fortress, furthest from the wall.
  • Coupure
  • Castle
  • Citadel
  • Dragon's teeth: Triangular obstacles that block the movement of tanks.
  • Earthworks
  • Fort
  • Fortress
  • Defensive fighting position a Rifle pit or Fox hole
  • Glacis
  • 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
  • Sapping
  • 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)
  • Tenaille (archaic Tenalia), an advanced defensive-work, in front of the main defences of a fortress which takes its name from resemblance, real or imaginary, to the lip of a pair of pincers.
  • 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)
  • Trench


  • 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

These terms are 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

These terms are 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).


These terms are used for talking about how aviation armed forces are used.




See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Article 102—Forcing a safeguard, Punitive Articles of the UCMJ
  2. Captain Smith, George., An Universal Military Dictionary, or A copious explanation of the technical terms & c. used in the equipment, machinery movements and military operations of an army..., London, Printed for J. Millan, near Whitehall, 1779

External links

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