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War & Peace Idioms


In 1969, Edwin Starr sang a song called War for Motown Records. It became a big hit*, popular in the United States and many parts of the world, and its chorus is:

*A big hit is a song that is very popular in a country or in the world.

War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

Today, many people around the world agree with this song. But while we are finally starting to figure out how to live peacefully with each other on this planet, we still have to learn the idioms around war. Just for fun, though, I’ve included one about peace.

All is fair in love and war

This idiom is used to explain that in war and in romantic relationships, many people used to think that tricking others was okay to do. Living in the age of the internet and the International Criminal Court, the idea that it is acceptable to lie during war or during relationships is quickly changing. In English, we call this new inability to lie to each other transparency.

Friendly fire

In English, we use friendly fire to describe when a person is shot accidentally (or on purpose) by a person from his own army or an allied force. This idiom is also used to describe soldiers who are accidentally killed by bombings, artillery fire, and/or explosions that came from one’s fellow soldiers or a friendly force. Of course, to those who are wounded or killed by friendly fire, it does not feel friendly at all!

Give peace a chance

This phrase became popular during the Peace movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and it suggests that we do our best to find a different way to create a solution, without violence or disrespect. John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded a song with the same name in 1969 that became very popular.


In conclusion, English is a language that was used during colonization and imperialism, a time during history in which the British and Americans took over huge parts of the planet. Back then, it was a language of war. But now, it has become a language of peace.

Today, most Americans and British people believe that war is not the answer to solving our problems. English is also a language that is now used to communicate and collaborate between people from Korea and Japan, Israel and Palestine, or France and Germany. The movement for peace, justice, and working together in the world is now being communicated in English.

Do you know any more War or Peace idioms to share? We invite you to leave your comments on this blog. We’d love to hear about it.

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By Joseph

ETO American English teacher

Image credit (second): War_Peace by Davidmartindel



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