We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Collateral Damage?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Military terminology is often in a state of flux, as is the case with the phrase collateral damage. Before the Vietnam War, military press releases rarely addressed the issue of extraneous damage caused by military operations. The mission itself may have been deemed a success, but there was little to no information provided about civilian casualties or property damage. During the Vietnam War, however, the term was coined to describe, and some would suggest downplay, the actual effect of a military campaign on the civilian population.

By describing civilian losses and property damage as collateral damage, government officials attempt to deflect criticism of an unusually high civilian death count. The euphemism is sufficient to imply such losses, but doesn't minimize the success of the overall mission. Phrases such as "civilian casualties" are often considered too direct for public consumption.

While the phrase may have its origins in military terminology, it has also found its way into the popular vernacular. The world of business is especially fond of the concept of collateral damage to describe the unintentional damage left in the wake of a singular action. If a company decides to move its offices out of a city, for example, the subsequent loss suffered by local vendors and restaurants could be described as collateral damage.

The sudden closing of a department for financial reasons could also cause collateral damage, as other employees lose their own positions as a result of the shutdown. This damage is usually viewed as significant but contained, meaning the number of losses or the level of damage is still acceptable when compared to the overall benefits of taking action. Military and business analysts alike may consider the perceived amount of unintentional damage an action could cause.

Sometimes, collateral damage occurs on a social level. A divorce, for example, could be said to leave behind some such damage, as friendships and family relations disintegrate. Other events such as an unexpected death in the family or a tragic accident could also cause collateral damage, as others' lives are negatively affected by the sudden change. When a singular event creates a sudden upheaval in a number of lives, the resulting fallout could be accurately described using this term.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.