Common Military Vocabulary

, Staff Writer
Updated May 5, 2022
military term aircraft carrier
    military term aircraft carrier
    Kypros / Moment / Getty
    Used under Getty Images license

Many industries, such as the medical industry and the computer industry, have their own technical jargon. However, there may not be another industry in the world that matches up with the amount of industry-specific speech possessed by the military. Fortunately, these lists of common military vocabulary words help you understand exactly what is being said before you get to base.

Military Vocabulary Word List A-E

Explore a selection of common military words from early in the alphabet, starting with the letter "a."

military vocabulary civic action
    Iraqi children wave to an American convoy
    Stocktrek Images / Getty
    Used under Getty Images license
  • aircraft carrier - military ship designed so aircraft can land on and take off from it
  • ammunition dump - location where ammunition and explosives are stored
  • anti-guerrilla operation - operations conducted against guerrilla forces
  • area defense - type of defense that is oriented toward retaining a particular terrain; relies mainly on the deployed forces that fire to repulse and stop attackers
  • assault - last step of an attack phase; rushing to close combat to drive the enemy out for hand-to-hand combat using hand grenades and bayonets
  • attack - form of offensive combat action; directed against the enemy to drive the enemy from position in order to kill or capture
  • barrage - protective firing of indirect firing weapons
  • boundaries - company and battalion defense areas; limited due to terrain and means of approach
  • caliber - diameter of a bullet or bore of a gun; expressed in millimeters or inch fractions (hundredths or thousandths of an inch)
  • casualty - someone who dies, is wounded or becomes ill as a result of military action; can be military or civilian personnel
  • charge - part of a fire command; establishes the amount of propellant in a shell
  • checkpoint - easy-to-identify point on terrain; used for controlling movement or identifying locations
  • chemical warfare - military operations involving the use of chemical agents designed to kill or incapacitate the enemy
  • civic action - using military forces on projects beneficial to a civilian population or economic development of a particular area; often are agriculture, education, public works, communications, sanitation, or health projects
  • clandestine - military activities intended to be kept secret or concealed
  • close combat - hand-to-hand combat or fighting; involves the use of weapons such as pistols, bayonets, rifles, and hand grenades
  • constraint - a requirement that restricts the strategies or tactics that can be used
  • counterattack - attack made in response to attackers; may be made by a portion or the entire defensive force (The main purpose of such an attack is usually to regain ground that has been lost, to destroy the enemy's advance units, or to deny the enemy of friendly territory.)
  • d-day - refers to the day in which an operation (such as a field operation) will commence; also used to refer to the day Allied troops invaded Normandy (D-Day, June 6, 1944)
  • debarkation - process of unloading equipment, supplies or troops from an aircraft or ship
  • decontamination - the process of removing traces of chemical or biological agents from a person, object or area for safety purposes
  • deployment - troop movement to position forces in a specific location; positioning troops for rapid action
  • direct fire - fire that is delivered by a weapon aimed directly at its target
  • dump - location where military supplies are stored
  • ejection - escaping from a military aircraft via a capsule or propelled set; separation of weaponry or cargo from a military aircraft while it’s in flight
  • evacuation - clearance (removal) of personnel or noncombatants from an area; recovering military materials left behind for shipment to appropriate locations
  • evasion - avoiding capture by the enemy in non-friendly territory
  • expectant - someone who has been wounded or made ill as a result of military action who is not expected to survive
  • extraction - immediate removal of personnel from hostile territory

List of Military Vocabulary Terms F-Z

Continue building your military vocabulary with words through the rest of the alphabet, up to and including the letter "z."

military term fleet
    military term fleet
    Used under Getty Images license
    Stocktrek Images / Getty
  • fleet - collection of forces under a commander’s control; may include forces, ships and aircraft
  • ground zero - point of origin for violent activity (such as where a bomb hits); specific point directly below explosion of a nuclear weapon
  • guerilla combatants - relatively small group of combatants fighting against an organized military force
  • guerilla warfare - small scale, fast-paced actions by guerilla combatants attempting to disrupt much larger opposing forces or competing groups of guerilla combatants
  • hostile act - an attack or show of force against the homeland
  • infiltrate - to penetrate enemy lines by military forces in order to attack enemies from inside their own territory
  • insurgency - rebellious political activity, revolt or rebellion designed to overthrow or weaken a government (or other authority) by its own people
  • insurrection - the process of rising up to challenge one’s own government
  • killing zone - area within which military forces seek to force the enemy into for destruction
  • logistics - process of planning and carrying out troop movements
  • martial law - when the military takes control of a town or population
  • obstacle - natural or artificial barrier that impedes or stops a military unit’s movement
  • occupation - situation in which a particular area is being controlled by a foreign force; typically occurs as a result of armed force and continued threat
  • penetration - breaching and moving through an enemy line or into enemy territory
  • political warfare - using political means other than direct military action to accomplish objectives
  • raid - small scale operation to quickly penetrate hostile territory and accomplish a specific mission before withdrawing; often used to destroy enemy installations or rattle the enemy
  • rebellion - open, usually armed resistance to an established government or recognized authority
  • revolt - renouncing allegiance to or taking action against a government or other authority forces
  • revolution - sudden change in political power brought on by toppling the government to establish a new authority
  • security - actions taken by a certain command in order to protect its group from sabotage, espionage or observation
  • special forces - highly trained elite military personnel that complete special operations missions via unconventional strategies
  • withdrawal - pulling back military forces; a gradual removal of military presence
  • zone of fire - a particular area where a unit delivers or is about to deliver fire

Discover More Military Terminology

Mastering common military words is a great way to improve your vocabulary related to the armed services. To become even more fluent in military terminology, review a list of military acronyms, take a deep dive into some military slang sayings, or explore how to write the date in military format.