ag·​o·​nis·​tic | \ ˌa-gə-ˈni-stik How to pronounce agonistic (audio) \

Definition of agonistic

1 : of or relating to the athletic contests of ancient Greece
3 : striving for effect : strained
4 : of, relating to, or being aggressive or defensive social interaction (such as fighting, fleeing, or submitting) between individuals usually of the same species

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from agonistic

agonistically \ ˌa-​gə-​ˈni-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce agonistic (audio) \ adverb

Did You Know?

Agonistic has its roots in ancient Greece-specifically in the agonistic (to use the oldest sense of the word) athletic contests called agons featured at public festivals. From physical conflict to verbal jousting, "agonistic" came to be used as a synonym for "argumentative" and later to mean "striving for effect" or "strained." Common current use, however, is biological, relating to confrontational interaction among animals of the same species and the responsive behaviors-such as aggression, flight, or submission-they exhibit. "Agonistic" is also sometimes used to describe an agonist muscle, a muscle that on contracting is automatically checked and controlled by an opposing muscle, that other muscle being an "antagonist." For example, during a bicep curl in weight lifting, the (contracted) bicep is the agonistic muscle and the (relaxed) triceps muscle is the antagonist.

Examples of agonistic in a Sentence

clearly a writer with a chip on his shoulder, he's very agonistic even when stating indisputable facts
Recent Examples on the Web History has rhythms, tunes and even harmonies; but the sound of the past is an agonistic multiplicity. Colin Thubron, The New York Review of Books, 17 Nov. 2020 This agonistic version of the fact-value distinction leaves us with an impoverished ideal of social interaction. Peter E. Gordon, The New York Review of Books, 11 June 2020 During this period, the scientists also tracked more than 70 agonistic interactions between individuals, establishing Priscilla as the least dominant female. Karinna Hurley, Scientific American, 12 Nov. 2019 While studying the ghost crabs, researchers noticed that when they were involved in agonistic interactions, the crustaceans made the aggressive rasping noises even with their claws outstretched. Amy Woodyatt And Allen Kim, CNN, 12 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'agonistic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of agonistic

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for agonistic

borrowed from Late Latin agōnisticus "of a contest," borrowed from Greek agōnistikós "fit for a contest, contentious," from agōnistḗs "one engaged in a contest or struggle" + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at agonist

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about agonistic

Time Traveler for agonistic

Time Traveler

The first known use of agonistic was in 1656

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about agonistic

Statistics for agonistic

Cite this Entry

“Agonistic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for agonistic


ag·​o·​nis·​tic | \ ˌag-ə-ˈnis-tik How to pronounce agonistic (audio) \

Medical Definition of agonistic

: of, relating to, or being aggressive or defensive social interaction (as fighting, fleeing, or submitting) between individuals usually of the same species agonistic behavior

More from Merriam-Webster on agonistic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for agonistic

Nglish: Translation of agonistic for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!