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World war

A world war is a war involving many of the countries of the world or many of the most powerful and populous ones. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters. While a variety of global conflicts have been subjectively deemed 'world wars,' the term is applied to the two major international conflicts that occurred during the twentieth century: World War I (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945) respectively.

The Oxford English Dictionary cited the first known usage in the English language to a Scottish newspaper: the People's Journal in 1848, “A war among the great powers is now necessarily a world-war.” The term, “world war” had been used in 1850 by Karl Marx and his associate Friedrich Engels in The Class Struggles in France. Rasmus B. Anderson in 1889 described an episode in Teutonic mythology as a “world war” (Swedish: världskrig), justifying this description by a line in an Old Norse epic poem, "Völuspá: folcvig fyrst i heimi" ("The first great war in the world".) German writer August Wilhelm Otto Niemann had used the term "world war" in the title of his anti-British novel, Der Weltkrieg: Deutsche Träume (The World War: German Dreams) in 1904, published in English as The Coming Conquest of England.

In English, the term "First World War" had been used by Charles à Court Repington as a title for his memoirs (published in 1920) having discussed the matter with a Major Johnstone of Harvard University in September 1918. The term "World War I" was coined by Time magazine in its issue of June 12, 1939. In the same article, the term "World War II" was first used speculatively to describe the upcoming war. The first use for the actual war came in its issue of September 11, 1939. One week earlier, on September 4, the day after France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, the Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad used the term on its front page, saying "The second World War broke out yesterday at 11 a.m."

Estimated death tolls. Log. mean calculated using simple power law.
Event Lowest
Location From To Duration (years)
Three Kingdoms 36,000,000 40,000,000 China 184 280 96
An Lushan Rebellion 13,000,000 36,000,000 China 755 763 9
Mongol conquests 30,000,000 40,000,000 Eurasia 1206 1324 118
Conquests of Timur 15,000,000 20,000,000 Asia 1369 1405 37
Qing dynasty conquest of the Ming dynasty 25,000,000 25,000,000 China 1616 1662 47
Taiping Rebellion 20,000,000 100,000,000 China 1851 1864 14
Estimated death tolls. Log. mean calculated using simple power law.
Event Lowest
Location From To Duration (years)
Late Bronze Age collapse Egypt, Anatolia, Syria, Canaan, Cyprus, Greece, Mesopotamia -1200s -1150s 40-50
Greco-Persian Wars Greece, Thrace, Aegean Islands, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Egypt −499 −449 50
Peloponnesian War Greece, Asia Minor, Sicily −431 −404 27
Wars of Alexander the Great Thrace, Illyria, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Babylonia, Persia, Sogdiana, India −335 −323 12
Wars of the Diadochi Macedon, Greece, Thrace, Anatolia, Levant, Egypt, Babylonia, Persia −322 −275 47
First Punic War 285,000 Mediterranean Sea, Sicily, Sardinia, North Africa −264 −241 23
Second Punic War 616,000 Italy, Sicily, Hispania, Cisalpine Gaul, Transalpine Gaul, North Africa, Greece −218 −201 17
Roman–Seleucid War Greece, Asia Minor −192 −188 4
Roman–Persian Wars Mesopotamia, Syria, Levant, Egypt, Transcaucasus, Atropatene, Asia Minor, Balkans −92 629 721
First Mithridatic War Asia Minor, Achaea, Aegean Sea 89 85 4
Great Roman Civil War Hispania, Italy, Greece, Illyria, Egypt, Africa 49 45 4
Byzantine–Sassanid wars Caucasus, Asia Minor, Egypt, Levant, Mesopotamia 502 628 126
Muslim conquests Mesopotamia, Caucasus, Persia, Levant, North Africa, Anatolia, Iberia, Gaul, Greater Khorasan 622 1258 636
Arab–Byzantine wars Levant, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Anatolia, Crete, Sicily, Italy 629 1050 421
Crusades 1,000,000 3,000,000 Iberian peninsula, Near East, Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt. 1095 1291 197
Mongol conquests 30,000,000 40,000,000 Eurasia 1206 1324 118
Byzantine–Ottoman Wars Asia Minor, Balkans 1265 1479 214
European colonization of the Americas 2,000,000 100,000,000 Americas 1492 1900 408
Ottoman–Habsburg wars Hungary, Mediterranean, Balkans, North Africa, Malta 1526 1791 265
First Anglo-Spanish War Atlantic Ocean, English Channel, Low Countries, Spain, Spanish Main, Portugal, Cornwall, Ireland, Americas, Azores, Canary islands 1585 1604 19
Dutch–Portuguese War Atlantic Ocean, Brazil, West Africa, Southern Africa, Indian Ocean, India, East Indies, Indochina, China 1602 1663 61
Second Anglo-Spanish War Caribbean, Spain, Canary Islands, Spanish Netherlands 1654 1660 6
Nine Years' War Europe, Ireland, Scotland, North America, South America, Asia 1688 1697 9
War of the Spanish Succession
Europe, North America, South America 1701 1714 13
War of the Quadruple Alliance Sicily, Sardinia, Spain, North America 1718 1720 2
Third Anglo-Spanish War Spain, Panama 1727 1729 2
War of the Austrian Succession
Europe, North America, India 1740 1748 8
Seven Years' War
Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia 1754 1763 9
American Revolutionary War North America, Gibraltar, Balearic Islands, India, Africa, Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean 1775 1784 8
French Revolutionary Wars
Europe, Egypt, Middle East, Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, Indian Ocean 1792 1802 9
Napoleonic Wars
7,000,000 Europe, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, Río de la Plata, French Guiana, West Indies, Indian Ocean, North America, South Caucasus 1803 1815 13
Crimean War Sicily, Sardinia, Spain, North America, Southeastern Europe, Black Sea 1853 1856 3
World War I
15,000,000 65,000,000 Global 1914 1918 4
Map of participants in World War II.png
World War II
40,000,000 85,000,000 Global 1939 1945 6
Cold War Map 1980.svg
Cold War
20,000,000 30,000,000 Global 1947 1991 44
Battlefields in The Global War on Terror.svg
War on Terror
272,000 1,260,000 Global 2001 present 15



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