Metaphors of Battles

In my last post, I described how language used to describe preparing for war is also used metaphorically to describe preparing for political campaigns.  Today I would like to share how words and phrases used to describe military battles are used to describe political elections.  Here are a few examples.

primary battles

Battles are the names of the primary engagements between armies in a war.  Metaphorically, battles can also be fought verbally between people or groups.  The notion of battle is commonly used in politics.

Example:  In every presidential primary, there are many battles among the candidates to gain the nomination of the party.

battle cry

At the start of every battle, there is a call or cry from the commanding officer to alert the troops to begin fighting.  The phrase battle cry can also be used to indicate the beginning of a political process.

Example:  In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street protestors used the slogan “We are the 99%!? as their battle cry to gain support against the richest 1% of the nation controlling the government.

battleground states

The land where battles are fought are called battlegrounds.  In politics, states in which voters may vote for either Democrats or Republicans are called battleground states when candidates fight for the votes for their party.

Example:  Ohio and Florida are often considered battleground states in presidential elections.

The Battle of New Orleans - Andrew Jackson wins the final battle of the War of 1812 on January 8, 1815 (painting by Edward Percy Moran, 1910)
The Battle of New Orleans – Andrew Jackson wins the final battle of the War of 1812 on January 8, 1815 (painting by Edward Percy Moran, 1910)

battle lines are drawn

The exact line separating the land controlled by two fighting armies is called the battle line.  Metaphorically, a battle line is the ideological separation between two people or groups. In a public political argument, we may say that battle lines are drawn based on a certain view of a controversial topic.

Example:  In the 2012 election, Democrats drew many battles lines with Republicans over the tax breaks given to millionaires and billionaires.


Combat is another word for battles fought between armies in a war.  Metaphorically, any verbal argument can be described as combat as well. As a verb the word combat can be used to describe efforts to fight against something.

Example:  George W. Bush worked hard to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa during his presidency.


A firefight is an intense battle between two armies in which a great deal of gunfire is exchanged.  In politics, a heated argument may also be called a firefight.

Example:  Sometimes a peaceful presidential debate turns into a firefight among the top candidates.


The word clash is an onomatopoetic word meaning that it represents the sound made by two metallic objects hitting together.  A physical confrontation between people or battle between armies may be called a clash.  However, metaphorically, a disagreement in words or ideas between two people or groups may also be called a clash.  Often we speak of a clash of personalities between two people.

Example:  During the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and other candidates clashed over positions on the economy.

Next time:  Offensive Tactics in War and Politics