When did these respective wars pick up their names? What was WWI called before WWII? The World War? WHen did WWII become the term to reflect that war? Was it during the war or something added by historians?

From what I recall, WWI was known, up until WWII, as “the Great War”. When it became clear that the events of 1939 were leading to another war of similar (or greater) scope, the current war became known as the “Second World War”, the “First World War”, of course, being the previous Great War.

WWI was normally called “The Great War” during the period between the wars.

During WWII, most people just called it “the war” (duh).

I’m not sure when people started using the WWI/WWII terminology. I know that Churchill tried to dub it “the Hitler war” in his memoirs, but that didn’t stick.

My mother had an encyclopedia published about 1940 which simply had an entry on “War in Europe 1939-”

WWI was usually called “The Great War,” but I believe it was also sometimes called “The World War.”

I seem to recall that a commentator, shortly after the beginning of the hostilities in WWII, wrote something to the effect that “World War II began last week,” but I have no cite.

I knew about “The Great War” … but what about the American Civil War? What did Lincoln and his chums call it? Or the rebs?

I believe that during the war itself the usual reference in the North was just to “the rebellion.”

The South at least at times referred to it as “the second American Revolution,” but I am not sure if that post-dated the conflict itself

I have read a book that had journalists accounts of World War Two and I seem to remember that they were calling it World War Two while the fighting was still going on. I may be wrong about this as some of the articles were from memoirs published after the war, but I think they were all published within five years of the end of WWII.

American Civil War, known variously as:

The War Between the States
The War of Southern Secession
The War of Northern Aggression
The War of the Rebellion
World War I, known variously as:

The Great War
The First World War
The World War, 1914-1918
The War to End All Wars

World War II, known variously as:

The Second World War
The World War, 1939-1945
The Big One

Obviously, some of those terms are loaded, archaic, or just plain antagonistic. Not all are official, and I’m sure the list is not complete.

The Russians call WW2 “The Great Patriotic War”

I know we had a thread that addressed this at one point, but I couldn’t find it. Nor could I find the answer with regard to WWII with Google.

So I called my Mom who was in her mid-20s when that war started and she told me it was commonly called World War II just as soon as we got in it.

We don’t really know the world is such a terrible place because we have World Wars; we know the world is such a terrible place because we have so many that we have to number them. :frowning:

Check out the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln, at least once, refered to it as “a great civil war”

“The Late Unpleasantness”, aka “The War Of The Rebellion”.

They were named at a meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt, but damned if I can find a cite. Perhaps at the Casablanca meeting?

As a kid growing up in a small town in the 60’s, I remember old timers jabbering on about being in the Great War. Then the middle aged guys who were sick of hearing about the Great War from old timers would counter that they were in the Real War. Then some pretty lame bantering back and forth between the respective veterns…

To the term “Civil War”–Longfellow said, 1862 “Of the Civil War I say only this. It is not a revolution…It is Slavery against Freedom.” From my Mathews.

Of course, this is not meant to imply that the general populace would have used the term Civil War.

Also, from my Mathews, Mark Twain said:

In the South, the War is what A.D. is elsewhere; they date from it. All Day long you hear things ‘placed’ as having happened since the War; or ‘du’in’ the War, ‘or befo’ the War.’

Sure, when it happens in your back yard.


From a quote of a tomndebb post in Did Time magazine name it World War II? (the originally posted link no longer works in this dynamic information age):

An historian friend confirms this: WWI was “The Great War” until September 1939, when this whole numbering business came into being.

As a child in the '60s (meaning, 5 or 6 years old), I asked my Mother who would win World War III, and she always said “If there’s a World War III, there won’t be any more world.”

Nothing like raising a pre-school nihilist…

– Beruang

I don’t know why, Beruang, but for some reason I picture your Mom emptying the dishwasher as she says that.