Various names have been applied to the conflict. Vietnam War is the most commonly used name in English. It has also been called the Second Indochina War, and the Vietnam Conflict.

As there have been so many conflicts in Indochina, this conflict is known by the name of their chief opponent to distinguish it from the others. Thus, in Vietnamese, the war is known as Chiến tranh Việt Nam (The Vietnam War), or as Kháng chiến chống Mỹ (Resistance War Against America), loosely translated as the American War.

The main military organizations involved in the war were, on one side, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the U.S. military, and, on the other side, the Vietnam People's Army (VPA), or North Vietnamese Army (NVA), and the Vietcong, or National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), a South Vietnamese communist army.

Second Indochina War

The name "Second Indochina War" places the conflict into context with other distinct, but related, and contiguous conflicts in Southeast Asia. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are seen as the battlegrounds of a larger Indochinese conflict that began at the end of World War II and lasted until communist victory in 1975. This conflict can be viewed in terms of the demise of colonialism and its after-effects during the Cold War.

Vietnam Conflict

The term "Vietnam Conflict" is largely a U.S. designation, it acknowledges that the United States Congress never declared war on North Vietnam. Legally, the President used his constitutional discretion—supplemented by supportive resolutions in Congress—to conduct what was said to be a “police action”.

Vietnam War

"Vietnam War" is the most commonly used designation in English and is growing increasingly common in Vietnam, where it generally known as “Chiến tranh Việt Nam” ("Vietnam War").

Resistance War against the American Empire to Save the Nation

"Resistance War against the American Empire to Save the Nation" is the term favored by North Vietnam; it is more of a saying than a name, and its meaning is self-evident. Its usage has been reduced in recent years. The common name for the war is “Chiến tranh Việt Nam” ("Vietnam War").