At what point is a World War declared a World War?

I wish I’d paid more attention during History class in high school, sigh.

From what I understand … WWI and WWII were named as such well after they started … as in, soldiers leaving for France didn’t think “oh, I’m going to go fight in WWII” but then as veterans, they are clearly WWII veterans.

So my questions are: At what point does any involved country know it is in a world war? For example, at what point during WWII did it get called World War II? Or was it afterwards?

And the big question: Are we already in WWIII as of today, and just don’t know it yet?

I apologize about my ignorance of history. I feel like a total doofus right about now. But as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a stupid question, only questions that annoy everyone with their utter stupidity :wink:

Cosmic"my husband calls me this so it’s my nick"Muffin

There was a similar question in General Questions at the end of last month, WWI and WWII, that will answer some of your questions. It has links to earlier threads on similar subjects.

WWI was called “The World War” (along with “The Great War”) by the time it ended. Its name was modified to World War I a few days after World War II was so named–which occurred within a day or so of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.

The earlier threads will point to historical re-analyses that talk about World Wars that occurred at least as early as the eighteenth century (as European colonial powers and emerging empires fought each other across several continents, usually involving local peoples, as well).

Some have called the Cold War the Third World War, although the lack of outright warfare among the principles minimizes support for that terminology.

It is unlikely that the current conflict will be seen as a “world war” (despite that it will probably be fought on several continents) simply because it seems unlikely that it will be a struggle between massive numbers of nations. (If bin Laden were able to encourage Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan to come to his aid and India and China each threw in against their traditional foes, that could change. However, it is unlikely.)

I would be interested to know who actually names wars.

The media seem to have come up with “the Gulf War”, even though it more or less was an Iraq-Kuwait War.

Most names seem self evident - the Sino-Japanese War, the Korean War, etc. But what about the Hundred Years War? Or the (Russian) Great Patriotic War?

I think that some wars are just so intense that, when it’s all over, people look back and say, “Holy shit!” And that’s where we got the World War designations…

I’m sure that some newspaper out there is just chomping at the bit to be the first media outlet to scream “World War 3!!!” across its headlines, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets tossed around quite easily.

Well, we have the United States, Afghanistan, and England right now. That’s three continents right there. We might attack Iraq because of their involvemnet in the 1993 bombing of the WTC. Germany has good reason to get involved. Bin Laden said that no American will rest until every Jew is out of Palestine. He is trying to make sure that the endless Israel-Palestine problem gets thrown into the mix. Pakistan is having to use tear gas on pro-Taliban supporters and is turning into a powder keg. And we can always count on varying numbers of Bin Laden supporters in most of the Muslim and Arab countries, Sudan, the Phillipines. And as we’ve seen, even a small number of people can cause major damage.