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Howitzers, like other artillery equipment, are usually organized in groups called batteries.

and houf is in turn a borrowing from the Middle High German word Hūfe or Houfe (modern German Haufen), meaning "heap".

Haufen, sometimes in the compound Gewalthaufen, also designated a pike square formation in German.

Since the First World War, the word howitzer has been increasingly used to describe artillery pieces that, strictly speaking, belong to the category of gun-howitzers – relatively long barrels and high muzzle velocities combined with multiple propelling charges and high maximum elevations.

By the 1890s, a number of European armies fielded either light (105 mm to 127 mm) or heavy (149 mm to 155 mm) field howitzers and a few, such as that of Germany, fielded both.

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