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The victory over the French at Waterloo was Wellington's greatest triumph.

What is the meaning of over here?

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  • It's just a metaphorical use of spatial position, same as you might win someone over to your opinion, by persuasive argument. Or be under attack, or have the down on someone you feel negatively towards. Or beat someone up, I suppose, but you're still the winner if you beat them down. In your cited context, against would be a drop-in replacement for over, but that doesn't mean over = against here. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 16:13

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Here, "over" is just a preposition that correlates with "victory" to indicate the party that had a loss.

It doesn't have any particular meaning, but it's reasonable to assume somewhere, way back in the history of Germanic languages, it was chosen because it also has the meaning of "above" or "higher than", which we commonly associate with winners as compared to losers.

So as far as learning English goes, you just have to remember that "over" has this function when used with "victory" and other words that generally mean "win".

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  • One exception comes to mind, and reinforces my comment that against would be a drop-in replacement for over, but that doesn't mean over = against here. A woman might say It was nice to have two men fighting over me! OR It was awful to have two men fighting against me! Switching the prepositions there would create unlikely utterances! Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 17:10
  • Both prepositions "against" and "over" can be used with this same function. This has no bearing on the meanings of over and against, nor on other functions of "over" in correlation with other verbs or nouns.
    – gotube
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 17:28
  • Traditionally, the winner of a fight would be the one standing, while the defeated opponent would be kneeling, knocked down, or lying dead/injured. I suspect the idea that the winner would be higher than the loser probably predates writing.
    – barbecue
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 23:20

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