List of established military terms

This is a list of established military terms which have been in use for at least 50 years. Since technology has changed, not all of them are in current use, or they may have been superseded by more modern terms. However, they are still in current use in articles about previous military periods. Some of them like camouflet have been adapted to describe modern versions of old techniques.

1. Administrative
Staging area
Materiel also materiel
Cantonment: a temporary or semi-permanent military quarters; in South Asia, the term cantonment also describes permanent military stations.
Military supply chain management

2. Intelligence
Electronic intelligence ELINT
High-frequency direction finding nicknamed huff-duff is the common name for a type of radio direction finding employed especially during the two world wars.
Signals intelligence SIGINT and signals intelligence in modern history
Communications intelligence COMINT
Open-source intelligence OSINT
Human intelligence HUMINT
Imagery intelligence IMINT
Measurement and signature intelligence MASINT

3. On land
Demilitarized zone DMZ: not all are military
No mans land: land that is not occupied or, more specifically, land that is under dispute between countries or areas that will not occupy it because of fear or uncertainty, for tactical or strategical considerations. No mans land was what the Allied Expeditionary Force under the command of General Pershing would refer to the land separating the fronts of the two opposing armies, as it was deadly to be there.

3.1. On land Arms and services
Artillery includes any engine used for the discharge of large projectiles.
Artillery battery: an organized group of artillery pieces previously artillery park.
Also see below Artillery

3.2. On land Doctrinal
These terms are used for talking about how armed forces are used. Many of the terms below can be applied to combat in other environments although most often used in reference to land warfare.
Siege: a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition, often accompanied by an assault in the later phase.
File: a single column of soldiers.
Garrison: a body of troops holding a particular location on a long-term basis.
Contravallation: a second line of fortifications behind the circumvallation facing away from the enemy fort to protect the besiegers from attacks by allies of the besieged.
Charge: a large force heads directly to an enemy to engage in close quarters combat, with the hope of breaking the enemy line.
Rank: a single line of soldiers.
Hors de combat: a unit out of the fight, surrendered, wounded when incapacitated, and so on.
Parallel trenches
Artillery barrage: a line or barrier of exploding artillery shells, created by continuous and co-ordinated fire of a large number of guns.
Rout: disorderly withdrawal of troops from a battlefield following a defeat, either real or perceived.
Ambush: carrying out a surprise attack on an enemy that passes a concealed position.
Melee or Mêlee
Investment: surrounding an enemy fort or town with armed forces to prevent entry or escape.
Echelon formation: a military formation in which members are arranged diagonally.
Extraction point: the location designated for reassembly of forces and their subsequent transportation out of the battle zone.
Pyrrhic victory: a victory paid for so dearly that it potentially could lead to a later defeat "a battle won, a war lost".
Military mining, undermining of defence positions either fortifications or enemy front line trenches see also camouflet.
Pitched battle
Escalade: the act of scaling defensive walls or ramparts with the aid of ladders, a prominent feature of siege warfare in medieval times.
Enfilade: a unit or position is "enfiladed" when enemy fire can be directed along the long axis of the unit. For instance, a trench is enfiladed if the enemy can fire down the length of the trench. May also refer to placing a unit in a position to enfilade, or the position so enfiladed.
Guerrilla tactics: attacking the enemy and the subsequent breaking off of contact and retreating; also referred to as "hit-and-run tactics".
Forlorn hope: a band of soldiers or other combatants chosen to take the leading part in a military operation, such as an assault on a defended position, where the risk of casualties is high.
Battalia: an army or a subcomponent of an army such as a battalion in battle array common military parlance in the 17th century.
Breach: a gap in fortified or battle lines.
Flanking maneuver: to attack an enemy or an enemy unit from the side, or to maneuver to do so.
Scuttling: the deliberate destruction of a ship to prevent its capture and use by an enemy. Commonly used as a coup de grace, but has also been a protest as after the First World War.
Frontal assault or frontal attack: an attack toward the front of an enemy force.
Killing field
Debellatio: to end a war by complete destruction of a hostile state. More severe than sacking.
Infantry square, pike square, or schiltron
Shield wall fortification: the highest and thickest wall of a castle protecting the main assault approach.
No quarter given: all enemy troops are to be killed, even those who surrender. Also referred to as "take no prisoners".
Salients: a pocket or "bulge" in a fortified or battle line. The enemys line facing a salient is referred to as a "re-entrant".
Safe-guard: individual soldiers or detachments placed to prevent resources often farms full of crops and livestock from being looted or plundered
Siege tower: a wooden tower on wheels constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification.
Fabian strategy: avoiding pitched battles in order to wear down the enemy in a war of attrition.
Counter-battery fire
Interdiction: to attack and disrupt enemy supply lines.
Encirclement: surrounding enemy forces on all sides, isolating them.
Blockade: a ring of naval vessels surrounding a specific port or even an entire nation. The goal is to halt the importation of goods which could help the blockaded nations war effort.
Booby trap
Sack: the destruction and looting of a city, usually after an assault.
Coup de main: a swift pre-emptive strike.
Chevaux de frise: sword blades chained together to incapacitate people trying to charge into a breach in the walls.
Shoot and scoot: a type of fire-and-movement tactic used by artillery to avoid counter-battery fire.
Shield wall: the massed use of interconnected shields to form a wall in battle.
Decisive victory: an overwhelming victory for one side, often shifting the course of conflict.
Fighting withdrawal: pulling back military forces while maintaining contact with the enemy.
Sapping: digging approach trench towards enemy fortifications within range of the besieged guns.
Siege train: specialised siege artillery moved in a column by road or by rail.
Retreat: withdrawal of troops from a battlefield can be either orderly or unorderly; fighting or by rout.
Scorched earth: the deliberate destruction of resources in order to deny their use to the enemy.
Pincer maneuver
Chequered retreat, retraite en echiquier, Fr. a line or battalion, alternately retreating and facing about in the presence of an enemy, exhibiting a deployment like chequered squares
Circumvallation: a line of fortifications built by the attackers around the besieged fortification facing towards it.
Pickets or picquet s: sentries or advance troops specifically tasked with early warning of contact with the enemy. A soldier who has this job is on "picket duty", and may also be referred to as a "lookout." see also Vedette, a mounted sentry or outpost
Dustoff: medical evacuation of wounded from the field of battle by air, bringing them to a higher level of medical care and treatment, e.g. from an aid station to a combat support hospital or other treatment facilities.
Pocket: see "salient".
Defilade: a unit or position is "defiladed" if it is protected from direct exposure to enemy fire; see also Hull-down.
Breakout: exploiting a breach in enemy lines so that a large force division or above passes through.
Bridgehead and its varieties known as beachheads and airheads.
Siege engines: specialised weapons used to overcome fortifications of a besieged fort or town; in modern times, the task has fallen to large artillery pieces.
Mobile columns, or movable columns French: colomnes mobiles or troupes en activite - in contrast to stationary troops troupes sedentaire. This may be used as a bureaucratic description to describe the function for which troops are raised for example the regiments of the Highland Fencible Corps were raised for garrison duties while Scottish line regiments in the British Army were raised to fight anywhere; or it may be an operational description.
Lodgement: an enclave made by increasing the size of a bridgehead.
Siege en regle: A siege where a city or fortress is invested but no bombardment or assault takes place. Instead, the besieger attempts to persuade the defenders to surrender through negotiation, inducement, or through privations such as starvation. This may be done because the fortress is too strong for the attackers to capture through bombardment and assault, or because if the fortification when captured is undamaged it immediately becomes a functional strong point for the former besiegers.
Parthian shot
Column: a formation of soldiers marching in files in which the files is significantly longer than the width of ranks in the formation.
Overwatch: when one small unit provides support for another.
Coup de grace: a death blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded soldier; also applied to severely damaged ships called scuttling when applied to friendly ships.
Sortie also "to sally forth"): a sudden attack against a besieging enemy from within a besieged fort or town.
Surrender at discretion: unconditional surrender instead of surrendering with terms.
Vedette, a mounted sentry or outpost, who has the function of bringing information, giving signals or warnings of danger, etc.
Withdrawal military: retreat i.e., pulling back of troops from a battlefield can be either orderly or unorderly; fighting or by rout
Switch position: A defensive position oblique to, and connecting, successive defensive positions paralleling the front.

3.3. On land Edged
Weapons that inflict damage through cutting or stabbing.
Partisan weapon
Pole weapon or poleaxe
Pike weapon
Bill weapon
Danish axe

3.4. On land Projectile munitions
Munitions are weapons and ordnance that inflict damage through impact.

3.5. On land Individual
Sling weapon and slingshot hand catapult
Bow weapon
Submachine gun
Machine gun

3.6. On land Artillery
Crew-served, non-vehicle mounted weapons
Onager siege weapon
Bombard weapon
Hand cannon
Field gun
Naval artillery
Mortar weapon

3.7. On land Explosives
Explosive ordnance causes damage through release of chemical energy.
Bangalore torpedo
Rifle grenade see also Grenade launcher
Rocket propelled grenade
Hand grenade
Artillery shell
Land mine
Anti-tank mine
Anti-personnel mine

3.8. On land Incendiary
Incendiary ordnance causes damage through release of heat.
White phosphorus
Greek fire

3.9. On land Vehicles
Armored personnel carrier
Armored car
Tank destroyer

3.10. On land Engineering See also List of fortifications
Bartizan: a cylindrical turret or sentry post projecting beyond the parapet of a fort or castle
Arrow slit arrow loop, loophole
Carnot wall: a wall pierced with loopholes, sited above the scarp of a ditch but below the rampart.
Bunker: a heavily fortified, mainly underground, facility used as a defensive position; also commonly used as command centres for high-level officers.
Bastion fortress: a star-shaped fortress surrounding a town or city also known as star fort or Trace italienne.
Chemin de ronde
Keep or donjon
Blast wall: a barrier for protection from high explosive blast.
Caponier: a defensive firing position either projecting into, or traversing the ditch of a fort.
Concentric castle
Medieval fortification
Casemate: a vaulted chamber for protected storage, accommodation or if provided with an embrasure, for artillery
Battery: an artillery position, which may be fortified.
Barbed wire
Banquette, or fire step
Blockhouse: a) Medieval and Renaissance - a small artillery tower, b) 18th and 19th centuries - a small colonial wooden fort, c) 20th century - a large concrete defensive structure.
Polygonal fort: a later type of fort without bastions.
Tête-de-pont: a temporary defensive work defending a bridge at the end closest to the enemy.
Embrasure: an opening in a parapet or casemate, for a gun to fire through.
Dragons teeth: Triangular obstacles acting as roadblocks for armoured vehicles.
Lunette: an outwork consisting of a salient angle with two flanks and an open gorge.
Counter mine: anti-siege tunnel dug by a fortifications defenders below an attackers mine with the intent of destroying it before the attackers are able to damage the foundations of the fortifications walls.
Counterscarp: the opposing side of a ditch in front of a fortification, i.e., the side facing it.
Rampart: The main defensive wall of a fortification.
Sea fort: a coastal fort entirely surrounded by the sea, either built on a rock or directly onto the sea bed.
Slighting: the deliberate destruction of an abandoned fortification without opposition from its former occupants and/or defenders.
Reduit: an enclosed defensive emplacement inside a larger fort; provides protection during a persistent attack.
Defensive fighting position; for example, a rifle pit, sangar or fox hole.
Redoubt: a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, which can be constructed of earthworks, stone or brick.
Glacis: a bank of earth sloping away from the fort, to protect it from direct artillery fire
Ditch: a dry moat.
Star fort: a star-shaped fortress surrounding a town or city also known as Bastion fortress or Trace italienne.
Tenaille archaic Tenalia: an advanced pincer-shaped defensive work in front of the main defences of a fortress.
Counterscarp gallery: a firing position built into the counterscarp wall of the ditch.
Pillbox: a small concrete guard post.
Scarp: the side of a ditch in front of a fortification facing away from it.
Mining: a siege method used since antiquity against a walled city, fortress or castle, where tunnels are dug to undermine the foundations of the walls; also see counter-mine.
Hill fort New Zealand: Pa Māori)
Gorge: opening at the rear of an outwork for access by defending troops from the main defensive position
Ravelin: a triangular fortification in front of bastion as a detached outwork.
Magazine: a protected place within a fort, where ammunition is stored and prepared for use.
Parapet: a wall at the edge of the rampart to protect the defenders.
Trace italienne: a star-shaped fortress surrounding a town or city also known as Bastion fortress or star fort.
Outwork: a minor defence, built or established outside the principal fortification limits, detached or semidetached.
Redan: a V-shaped salient angle toward an expected attack, made from earthworks or other material.
Dutch Water Line: a series of water-based defensive measures designed to flood large areas in case of attack.
Sally port
Sangar: a small temporary fortified position with a breastwork originally of stone, but built of sandbags and similar materials in modern times.
Sconce: a small protective fortification, such as an earthwork, often placed on a mound as a defensive work for artillery.
Terreplein: the fighting platform on top of a rampart, behind the parapet.
Fleche: an arrow shaped outwork, smaller than a ravelin or a lunette, with 2 faces with a parapet and an open gorge
Fascine is a bundle of sticks or similar, were used in military defences for revetting shoring up trenches or ramparts, especially around artillery batteries, or filling in ditches and trenches during an attack.
Gabion: a large basket filled with earth, used to form a temporary parapet for artillery

3.11. On land Geographic
Water that flows out of a defile into a wider place such as a lake.
A fortification at the end of a defile;
Defile: a geographic term for a narrow pass or gorge between mountains. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front.
To emerge from a defile or similar into open country;

4.1. Naval Arms and services
These terms concern combat arms and supporting services of armed forces used in naval warfare.

4.2. Naval Doctrinal
These terms concern the type of use of naval armed forces.
Raking fire
Crossing the Tee
Line astern, line ahead, or line of battle
Coup de grace: a final shot intended to finish off a sinking enemy ship which should be distinguished from scuttling.
Weather gage
Vanguard - the leading part of an advancing military formation

4.3. Naval Operational
Ladder: Also known as a ladder well. Much like civilian stairs however much steeper.
Below: Any deck beneath the one you are currently on.
Stern: Rear of the ship.
Port Side: Left hand side of the ship.
Taps: Lights out, time to sleep.
Aft: Any part of the ship closer to the stern than you currently are.
General Quarters: Battle stations. Generally set when the ship is about to engage in battle or hostile activities.
Aye, Aye: Response acknowledging and understanding a command.
Mid-watch: Tends to be the midnight to 0400 watch. Also known as "balls to four" due to military time equivalent 0000-0400.
All Hands: The entire ships crew to include all officers and enlisted.
Colours: Raising and lowering of the National Ensign, the American flag and organization flags.
Cast off: To throw off, to let go, to unfurl.
Working Aloft: Working above the highest deck, generally performing maintenance on the ships mast or antennas.
Quarters: Generally the morning assembly of all hands for muster and accountability.
Turn to: Start working.
Leave: Vacation time nearly completely free unless an emergency recall occurs.
Jettison: To throw or dispose of something over the side of ship.
Bow: Front of the ship.
Fathom: Unit of measurement generally used for depth from sea level to sea floor.
Carry on: An order given to continue work or duties.
Adrift: Loose and out of control. Typically applied to a ship or vessel that has lost power and is unable to control its movement.
Starboard: Right hand side of the ship.
Shore leave or Liberty US: Permission to leave the ship/base to enjoy non-work activities.

5. Air Arms and services
These terms concern combat arms and supporting services of armed forces used in air warfare.
Sortie: used by air forces to indicate an aircraft mission count flew seven sorties or in the sense of a departure the aircraft sortied.
These terms concern the type of use of aviation armed forces.
Bombing: specifically area bombing, carpet bombing and pattern bombing.
Sortie: a mission flown by an aircraft
Fighter bomber
Dirigible, balloon
Spotter plane