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Glossary of Military Terms - Lingo from the Front

Military history has a language all its own, from abatis to ZULU time to an alphabet soup of acronyms. When you need help cutting through the jargon, try this set of resources.
  1. Acronyms & Abbreviations (2)
  2. Military Terminology (2)

AAA is the abbreviation for anti-aircraft artillery.

An abatis is a wooden obstacle utilized in military fortifications. Typically, abatis consist of trees with sharpened points directed towards the enemy.

An ace is a pilot who has been credited with five or more aerial victories.

Antebellum refers to the years prior to the American Civil War in the United States.

A bastion is part of a set of fortifications that allows for the defenders to better attack oncoming troops.

A brig is a type of sail ship that was often used as a warship during the Age of Sail.

A buccaneer was a pirate who attacked shipping in the Caribbean, largely in the 17th century.

The centuria was a key Roman military unit consisting of around 100 men.

Chivalry was the code of conduct followed by knights in the Middle Ages.

A cohort was a Roman unit consisting of six centuriae.

A contubernium was the smallest unit of the Roman Empire.

Containment was a foreign policy strategy followed by the United States during the Cold War. Containment stated that communism needed to be contained, or it would spread to neighboring countries.

A Copperhead was a term for Northern opponents of the American Civil War.

A curtain or curtain wall is a defensive wall between towers or bastions of a fortress.

D-day is the day on which a military operation begins.

Definition of the term "doughboy" with an examination of the origin of the term.

A draftee is a soldier who is conscripted into military service.

An embrasure is an opening in parapet or wall which allows for a soldier to fire from a protected position. Embrasures may include openings such as arrow slits and loopholes.

Feudalism was a political system utlized in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Fighting Top
The fighting top was a platform on the masts of sailing warships from which marines or sailors could fire down upon the decks of enemy vessels.

Free Lance
A free lance was a knight or warrior who was not committed to a feudal lord and could hire themselves out for pay.

A frigate is a type of warship that came into common use in the 17th and 18th centuries.

A glacis is a rise of ground which forces attacking troops to remain in the line of fire from a set of fortifications until reaching a moat or ditch near the walls.

Going Over the Top
Going "over the top" meant climbing over the parapet of one's trenches to attack the enemy during World War I.

Guerre de Course
A strategy of naval warfare, guerre de course calls for a navy to attack the merchant shipping of an enemy with the goal of cutting off supplies and causing economic damage.

H-hour is the time a particular military operation is to begin.

Immelmann Turn
The Immelmann Turn is a classic air combat maneuver named for World War I ace Max Immelmann.

Judge Advocate General's Corps
The Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) is the legal branch of the US military.

The keep is generally the strongest tower or structure in a castle. The keep is often the central building and most heavily defended within a castle.

A knight was a medieval mounted warrior who wore armor.

Landing Area
A landing area is the operational zone for an amphibious or airborne assault.

Landing Craft
A landing craft is a vessel used in amphibious operations.

Legion (Roman)
The legion was the standard unit of the Roman Army.

Military Police
Military police are military law enforcement personnel.

No Man's Land
No Man's Land was the term given to the area between the opposing trench lines during World War I.

A postern is secondary gate to a castle or fortification.

Prize Crew
A prize crew was a group of men placed aboard a captured vessel in order for it to be sailed to a friendly port.

A ravelin is a small outwork used to protect the inner defenses of a fortification.

Rebel Yell
The Rebel Yell was high-pitch war cry used by Confederate troops when going into battle.

A redan is a type of angled fortification consisting of two faces which form a salient towards the enemy.

SAM is the acronym for surface-to-air missile.

A definition of the term sepoy and its various uses from the 18th to the 20th century.

Ship of the Line
The standard large warship from the 17th to the 19th century, the ship of the line typically mounted 64 to 110 guns.

Sloop of War
A sloop of war was a type of warship used during the Age of Sail.

A Split-S is a aerial maneuver used during air combat.

The stockade is a colloquial term for a military prison.

Uniform Code of Military Justice
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the set of laws and regulations which governs the US military.

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare is an approach where submarines sink merchant ships without warning.

Weather Gage
The weather gage was a position in the Age of Sail where one ship was upwind of another and able to initiate or break off the action.

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