war of nerves

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a war of nerves

Psychological warfare used to wear down an adversary's resolve through fear tactics. The dictator's threats against the sovereign nation he was trying to conquer became a war of nerves as the citizens worried about the future of their country.
See also: nerve, of, war

war of nerves

A conflict characterized by psychological pressure such as threats and rumors, aiming to undermine an enemy's morale. For example, Her lawyer said the university had waged a war of nerves to persuade his client to resign . This expression alludes to tactics used in World War II. [Late 1930s]
See also: nerve, of, war

war of nerves, a

A conflict that employs psychological techniques rather than direct violence. This term, which refers to a barrage of propaganda, threats, false rumors, and sabotage calculated to undermine the enemy’s morale, came into being in the mid-twentieth century. Edith Simon used it in The Past Masters (1953): “War of nerves . . . best thing is to take no notice.”
See also: of, war