Does 'invasion' imply the action is unjust? some people argue that the word 'invasion' implies the action is unpleasant, annoying and unwanted, as many dictionaries say, but not necessarily unjust. So, can we use invasion to describe a military action in another country that is righteous and judicious?

If you refer to the arrival of a large number of people or things as an invasion, you are emphasizing that they are unpleasant or difficult to deal with.

...this year's annual invasion of flies, wasps and ants.


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    The examples given are non-military ones involving insects or tourists. Military invasions might or not be described as right and just, although, as I am sure you will understand, a lot depends on who is doing the describing. Sep 19, 2022 at 15:24
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    Just a note, since you are learning.. The 3rd person singular conjugation of the verb to do is does, not dose. "Does 'invasion' imply the action is unjust?" The word dose is most commonly used a noun, describing the size of a medication portion.
    – Flydog57
    Sep 19, 2022 at 23:12
  • Just wanting to add an anecdotal piece of data: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glorious_Revolution#Invasion Although the Glorious revolution in presented in some good light in Wikipedia (and I suppose modern British historiography does), the article uses "invasion" a lot of times.
    – Pere
    Sep 21, 2022 at 9:56
  • First define "just", and then consider that Russia thinks that seizing Ukrainian territory is "just" because Russia denies that Ukraine's existence is valid.
    – RonJohn
    Sep 22, 2022 at 14:41

6 Answers 6


When applied to military forces, the word "invasion" is neutral. The word itself doesn't imply something is good or bad. You can use "invasion" for both the D-Day landings and the attacks on Ukraine.

On the other hand when used figuratively, it nearly always has a negative connotation. "An invasion of insects" for example. If something is viewed as positive you don't use "invasion". You don't say "the annual invasion of swallows" (as the arrival of these birds is seen as a good thing and a symbol of summer) - except by people who dislike the mess they create around their nests.

  • How do you apply unjust or just to an insect invasion? Sep 20, 2022 at 14:38
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    Mostly true, but "The British Invasion" (60s music and counterculture) is an example of a positive use of the word (in a non-military sense)
    – Yorik
    Sep 20, 2022 at 16:04
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    Now we think of the British Invasion in a positive light. At the time, however, many people thought that this music was junk. I think it was the Beatles owning the top 10 for several months is what changed peoples' minds.
    – NomadMaker
    Sep 20, 2022 at 20:43
  • @Yorik There may also have been different sentiments towards the British Invasion depending on whether you were American or British. Sep 21, 2022 at 11:38
  • @stackoverblown perspective. Insects don't literally invade; we anthropomorphize it because we don't like it.
    – RonJohn
    Sep 22, 2022 at 14:37

An invasion is the entry of Military forces of one country (or a group of countries acting together) into another, without invitation or authority from the country being invaded. Most often the purpose is to secure military control of the country invaded, or part of it. A successful invasion often leads occupation or conquest of the country invaded, but not always.

Use of the word "invade" or "invasion" does not imply that the action is either "just" or "unjust". That is a judgement call, and depends on the specific facts of the situation.

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    and regardless whether a particular military invasion is just, I'm sure you'll find that the object of the invasion finds it "unpleasant or difficult to deal with" :)
    – Esther
    Sep 19, 2022 at 20:50
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    @Esther - ask the people of Belogorovka or Normandy and you might get a different perspective ...
    – deep64blue
    Sep 20, 2022 at 8:52
  • @deep64blue : hey, just ask different people with different political views and belonging to different ethnic groups, within Belogorovka, and you might get different perspectives.
    – vsz
    Sep 21, 2022 at 7:18
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    It's perspective, not "judgement".
    – RonJohn
    Sep 22, 2022 at 14:38

Initially it's all subjective:

  • To the country that is invaded, it is obviously unjust.
  • To the country that is invading, it is obviously just (or they wouldn't do it).

Over the long term, whether history records it as just or unjust is determined by the winner.

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    Not entirely correct - half of the activity during WWII involved "hostile invasions" of foreign territories. The other half involved "liberating invasions"... The word on its own is essentially neutral when used about war.
    – MikeB
    Sep 21, 2022 at 8:38
  • At least relating to modern times, I disagree that it's all subjective, that opinion within the invading/invaded countries will run along state lines & that the "history is written by the victors" — for example, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was declared illegal by the UN secretary general at the time; there was strong opposition/protests within the invading countries (e.g. US/UK) and history if anything records it as a bigger mistake than it was seen contemporarily Sep 21, 2022 at 9:51

Some of the other answers focus on technicalities or military- or military-historian-specific use of the word "invasion". That's fine, but being that this is ELL, I think it's important to note that to native English speakers (or at least to a lot), "invasion" has a negative connotation. As a native speaker, I was rather surprised to find others talking about D-Day as an "invasion", and if I heard that out of context, I would assume the speaker was a nazi apologist or at least someone trying to project an air of sophisticated superiority through "neutrality".

Yes, "invasion" implies that the act is unjust. This is why parties undertaking invasions go to the trouble of coming up with words to use in place of "invasion".


Oxford Languages defines invade as (of an armed force) enter (a country or region) so as to subjugate or occupy it. Most people would regard doing that as 'unjust'. We all know that the Russian authorities regard their campaign in Ukraine as justified and therefore 'not an invasion'.

In response to Michael Harvey's comment - Some sources describe the D-Day Landings, intended to free countries already occupied by a foreign power, as an invasion.

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    So, was D-Day unjust? Sep 19, 2022 at 14:13
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    @MichaelHarvey I'm sure you are saying the same thing, but just to be clear - the D-Day landings, a perfectly just, and heroic, action on the part of Allied Forces, is frequently referrred to as an "invasion". I assume the "he" in your comment is de Gaulle. This would be more relevant to the History site, but the fact is that the Allied High Command, (following a demand from CdG) allowed Free French Forces to enter and liberate the city of Paris. Bradley wanted his guys to do it but Eisenhower overruled him.
    – WS2
    Sep 19, 2022 at 17:15
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    @OwenReynolds I'm not going to disagree with what you say here - the word may, among some writers, have acquired that sense. But the OED gives it an entirely descriptive meaning The action of invading a country or territory as an enemy; an entrance or incursion with armed force; a hostile inroad. Its examples (most recent 1856) also follow that pattern - for that is what invasions usually are. 1944 was to some extent exceptional in that sense. At least from an English-speaker's point of view.
    – WS2
    Sep 20, 2022 at 8:30
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    But the french participated in D-Day landings! If that was an invasion, the french took part in the invasion of their own land and home? What? Sep 20, 2022 at 14:54
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    Staying on a WWII theme, the Allied activities in Sicily, the Italian mainland, and of Morocco are all commonly referred to as 'Invasions', and fairly equally referred to as "Liberations"...
    – MikeB
    Sep 21, 2022 at 8:33

James K’s answer covers the important points, but one other important nuance is that an “invasion” is always an act of aggression (but see below). So, if we call an attack an “invasion,” we’re implicitly saying that the invader is not the rightful owner of the territory and the attacker, not the defender, which might have implications for how justified it is.

So, the Institute for the Study of War is a pro-Ukraine source. In its September 18 post, it refers to “the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” but “limited Ukrainian counterattacks,” “Ukrainian Counteroffensives,” and “Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories” (which unmistakably expresses approval).

However, there is one exception: an amphibious attack is always an “invasion.” In this one context, the word has no negative connotation. For example, the U.S. Navy itself describes its own naval landing at Inchon in June 1950 as “the Inchon invasion.” There are even references to the U.S. “invasion” of the Philippines in 1945, which was an American colony occupied by Japan at the time.

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    "the invader is not the rightful owner". Perhaps "current" or "de facto" would be more appropriate than "rightful". Was Germany the rightful owner of France in June 1944 when the Allies invaded? Sep 20, 2022 at 0:41
  • @RayButterworth As I said, there’s one exception: an amphibious landing is always an “invasion.”
    – Davislor
    Sep 20, 2022 at 4:01
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    your definition seem a little fuzzy, how does water make it an invasion?
    – Jasen
    Sep 20, 2022 at 9:21
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    @Jasen That’s just how military historians use the word. An amphibious landing is a “naval invasion,” or just an “invasion.” In this one context, unlike other uses of the word, it has neutral connotations.
    – Davislor
    Sep 20, 2022 at 10:11

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