war of words

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English[edit]

Noun[edit]

war of words (plural wars of words)

  1. (idiomatic) A heated exchange of threatening or inflammatory statements.
    • 1891, Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, ch. 26:
      The young man much resented this directness of attack, and in the war of words which followed when they met he did not scruple publicly to insult Mr Clare, without respect for his gray hairs.
    • 1901, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, The Defendant, ch. 13:
      The lower classes live in a state of war, a war of words. Their readiness is the product of the same fiery individualism as the readiness of the old fighting oligarchs. Any cabman has to be ready with his tongue, as any gentleman of the last century had to be ready with his sword.
    • 2007 Feb. 22, Virginia Heffernan, "Television: No Sex, Please, We’re Engaged," New York Times (retrieved 9 Aug 2017):
      [T]hese two have brutal, contemptuous wars of words — the kind you might expect from divorcing 40-somethings.

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