Arm

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Two words written arm form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these. The words arm are pronounced IPA: /ɑːrm/ in RP.

  • The verb 'to arm' means
    • transitively 'to supply with weapons, or armaments', as in 'The USA armed its allies with copious supplies of ammunition'. Passively this can mean 'equipped', literally 'with weapons', e.g. 'the German battleship Bismarck was principally armed with 8 38 cm (~15 inch) guns'; or figuratively, e.g. 'he was armed with an invincible sense of his own rightness'.
    • Intransitively, often reflexively, 'to arm [oneself]' is to equip [oneself] for some coming struggle, again either literally or figuratively. Byron wrote, in his description of the ball held in Brussels before the battle of Waterloo, of how a new sound was heard above the music and gaiety
Arm! arm! it is - it is - the cannon's opening roar!
Childe Harold, c.II, xxii
      • The phrase 'to take up arms',where 'arms' is a plural noun - the singular is rare - has a similar meaning, with the general use of 'to turn a disagreement into an armed combat, or a political dispute into a war'.
  • The noun 'an arm' means 'the human fore- (or upper) limb', of which the usual number is two.
    • This may be used figuratively to mean 'a branch [of an organization]', 'a subsidiary section'. This is common in military discussion, as when 'aviation is an essential arm of the Navy', or the three arms of the pre-modern army, infantry, cavalry and artillery.
For a similar confusion of homophones, see Alms - arms.