This is about the (historically recent) use of deconflict/deconfliction. Out of the Collins, AHDotEL, Cambridge, M.-Webster, Dictionary.com, Longman, TFD, Etymonline and ODO, only the last one has it1:


[with object] Military
Reduce the risk of collision between (aircraft, airborne weaponry, etc.) in an area by coordinating their movements.

The platoon deconflicts airspace during flight in the air traffic control chat room.

No longer satisfied merely to deconflict the activities of the several services, we now seek joint interdependence.


1 noun

The various airspaces required by the heavy-lift vehicle, the delivery vehicles, and the airdrop cargo itself all require deconfliction with other airspace users.

[ Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO), fragments from the deconflict entry, my emphasis ]

Clearly there is no conflict between opposing forces so this is not about deescalation and such. But that one example in bold feels out of place, strictly speaking; the sentence could originate from the military but it's no longer about the risk of collision, if but metaphorically; it is about streamlining, focus, coordination, jurisdiction and vision etc. It could be used in the business too.

  • In the ODO entry, the noun deconfliction is not labelled Military per se like the verb is; should I read in anything from that (i.e. that it's more casual/usual than the verb)?
  • In terms of scope and register, can you use deconflict(ion) to describe business re-engineering, processes and such when there's overlap, or will people think you're ex-military if you use that? It is about coordination as per the definition; but is the meaning shifting towards, or being used for, conflict settlement/resolution casually (my daughters had a fight, so I have to go and deconflict that; instead of settle etc.)? Is the word an euphemism for coordination? Is it casual, natural (de-conflict-ion) and expressive English at this point?
  • How do you generally distinguish deconflict/deconfliction from coordination, (re)conciliation, exchange of information, shared jurisdiction acknowledgement, or ultimately just planning ahead; is it the implied duties and/or the consequences of not deconflicting, which make this different?
  • Is that verb a term frequently used in civil aviation i.e. is it for instance how a native speaker could describe in practical terms what airport traffic control is?

1 In Canada, Termium has indexed the verb in a very specific context: Sea Operations(Military). They also have a specific application for deconfliction, a process of jurisdictional disentanglement so to speak, related to Security. The latter use is similar indeed to the sentence emphasized in the following ODO quote.

  • Isn't it a ELU question?
    – Kinzle B
    Oct 15, 2015 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


I had never seen or heard this word before it surfaced in the context of eliminating the possibility of inadvertent conflict between Russian and US air forces in Syria.

I'd guess it's a military/civil aviation expression (they're basically the same thing here: most aviation folks get their training in the military).

It looks like a useful word if it maintains its current very narrow sense of coordinating to forestall the possibility of accidental conflict. But if the BizSpeak or pop culture folks pick it up it will probably degenerate into another buzzword for smoothing over actual conflicts, employed as high slang to distinguish the user as cooler than people who don't use it yet. A pity if that happens.

  • Hi, I wanted to thank you for your insight here as well as on ELU. I remember at some point I had a very insightful exchange with you in the comments about something. I admire such a command of language related topics and openness. A Happy New Year and best regards to you!
    – user16335
    Jan 11, 2019 at 20:11

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