When did the terms World War One and World War Two come into use?

Dennis Nicholls

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The 1914-1918 war was originally called The Great War or The World War. It only got the "I" tacked on after the outbreak of the 1939-1945 war, which Churchill and others immediately referred to as World War II. See among other papers Churchill's war memoirs.
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andrew markworthy

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With respect, Dennis, not quite. Although it was most commonly called 'The Great War' by the general public it was also known as the First World War almost as soon as hostilities ceased. To quote the relevant section from Nigel Ree's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:
"FIRST WORLD WAR Known first as the 'European War', it became known quite rapidly as the Great War. By 10 September 1918, Lt-Col C. a Court Repington was referring to it in his diary as the 'First World War', thus: 'I saw Major Johnstone, the Harvard Professor who is here to lay the bases of an American History. We discusssed the right name for the war. I said that we called it now 'The War', but that this could not last. To call it 'The German War' was too much flattery for the Boche [contemporary slang for the Germans]. I suggested 'The World War' in order to prevent the millennium folk from forgetting that the history of the world was the history of the war.' Repington's book entitled 'First World War 1914-1918' was published in 1920. Presumably this helped popularize the name for the war, ominously suggesting that it was the first in a series."
 

Mitty

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Ah, yes, but 'First World War' and 'World War One' are different. The former can allude to the fact that great war, which involved the whole world was *A* first, the first time a war had been fought on such a scale. The latter name implies an ordering.
 

andrew markworthy

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Yes, the exact terms 'World War I' and World War II' came into being after 1945. 'Second World War' was used as a phrase whilst the combat was still taking place, implying that 'First World War' had already gained currency. Indeed, people were already talking about a second world war in the 1930s, since the mess made of the Versailles Treaty practically guaranteed a further conflict. My point (sorry, I should have expressed this more clearly) is that the idea of a labelling a world conlict as a first, second, or whatever, had been thought of before 1945.
 

Mark Leiter

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Correct me if im wrong, but wasen't World War I also regraded as "The War to end all Wars" after the armistise was signed and all the way up to the begining of WW2.
Mark
 

LarryDavenport

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So are we going to be in World War 3 now? I think it was always assumed that WW3 would be nuclear, I don't think that necessarily is true.
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andrew markworthy

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WWI was regarded as the 'war to end all wars'. At first, after the sheer carnage, people imagined that the sheer horror would make future wars impossible - politicians and military leaders would be deterred by the human cost for ordinary civilians and troops (yeh, right). As the 1930s progressed, people began to see that another conflict was almost inevitable, with either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union as the cause (most people in the UK and USA suspected the latter), and the term 'war to end all wars' began to be used with increasing irony.
 

Dennis Nicholls

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Larry,

Actually it's becoming vogue to refer to the so-called Cold War as "WWIII". After all, over 100,000 US troops died in combat in the so-called Cold War, counting Korea and Vietnam and others.

I guess what we're in now is WWIV. Einstein was wrong. We aren't using sticks and rocks.
 

Yee-Ming

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I once read a collection of detective/puzzle stories, where a sword allegedly presented to a Confederate general was considered fake, because it was for valour in "The First Battle of Bull Run" and dated shortly after said battle; rationale being that at that time, no one knew there would be a second battle (and also because the Confederates referred to the battle as Manassas, Bull Run being the Union term).

Logically, it seems odd to refer to World War One as such prior to the outbreak of WW2. Perhaps it's just a sad reflection of the times, that even in 1920 they fully expected a second world war to break out in the future?
 

Yee-Ming

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I didn't notice when I first read and posted in this thread, but now I see that it was started in September 2001! Before I even joined, which is why I didn't read/post the first go-around. Dennis, how on earth did you spot this thread and revive it?
 

Dennis Nicholls

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I have my ways.
Here are some interesting comments sent to the NRO's "the corner" today.
A favorite peeve of mine is when people in movies refer to "World War I"
before World War II takes place."
Well, they did refer to it as WW I before WW II happened.
"It was commonly called "The Great War" or sometimes "the war to end all
wars" until World War II, although the name "First World War" was coined as
early as 1920 by Lt-Col à Court Repington in The First World War 1914 *18."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_world_war
"Wars are socially constructed, as are their names. The war known in some
circles as the Civil War or the War Between the States is also known in
other circles as the War of Northern Agression.
The Oxford English Dictionary reports that the phrase "world war" was first
noted in use in the 8 April 1909 edition of the Westminster Gazette.
The conflict that erupted in August 1914, and that ended at the 11th hour of
the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, was known at the time simply as the
Great War. In the United States, it was officially designated The World War.
On October 7, 1919, War Department General Orders No. 115 directed: "The war
against the Central Powers of Europe, in which the United States has taken
part, will hereafter be designated in all official communications and
publications as 'The World War.'" It was also called "The War to End All
Wars," but this optimism proved unjustified. Some would suggest that this
War was just the first phase of the Second 30 Years War, spanning the period
1914 - 1945.
The term "First World War" was used in 1920 by Lt-Col à Court Repington, in
his book The First World War 1914-18.
The phrase "World War 2" was first noted in use in Manchester Guardian on
18 February 1919. It seems that World Wars I & II were named together for
the first time by Time magazine on 11 September 1938."
http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita...war_4-name.htm
 

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