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

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Other Words from agonistic

agonistically \ ˌa-​gə-​ˈni-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce agonistically (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 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, "Add Another Animal to the List of Tool Users: Pigs," 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, "Ghost crabs 'growl' from their stomachs, scientists find," 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.

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

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The first known use of agonistic was in 1656

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Cite this Entry

“Agonistic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on agonistic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for agonistic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with agonistic

Nglish: Translation of agonistic for Spanish Speakers

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