bel·​li·​cose | \ ˈbe-li-ˌkōs How to pronounce bellicose (audio) \

Definition of bellicose

: favoring or inclined to start quarrels or wars

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Other Words from bellicose

bellicosity \ ˌbe-​li-​ˈkä-​sə-​tē How to pronounce bellicosity (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for bellicose

belligerent, bellicose, pugnacious, quarrelsome, contentious mean having an aggressive or fighting attitude. belligerent often implies being actually at war or engaged in hostilities. belligerent nations bellicose suggests a disposition to fight. a drunk in a bellicose mood pugnacious suggests a disposition that takes pleasure in personal combat. a pugnacious gangster quarrelsome stresses an ill-natured readiness to fight without good cause. the heat made us all quarrelsome contentious implies perverse and irritating fondness for arguing and quarreling. wearied by his contentious disposition

Don't War Over the Meaning of Bellicose

Since bellicose describes an attitude that hopes for actual war, the word is generally applied to nations and their leaders. In the 20th century, it was commonly used to describe such figures as Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm, Italy's Benito Mussolini, and Japan's General Tojo, leaders who believed their countries had everything to gain by starting wars. The international relations of a nation with a bellicose foreign policy tend to be stormy and difficult, and bellicosity usually makes the rest of the world very uneasy.

Examples of bellicose in a Sentence

Never in peacetime, perhaps, have the statements of our government officials been more relentlessly bellicose. Yet their actions have been comparatively cautious. New Yorker, 24 June 1985 For three centuries Viking raiders haunted western Europe. The bellicose Charlemagne himself felt menaced. — Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1983 His evident calm, which always infuriated the opposition, must have irritated the bellicose colonel to a point at which he could control himself no longer. — Michael Pearson, Those Damned Rebels, 1972 bellicose hockey players who always seem to spend more time fighting than playing
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Recent Examples on the Web His rhetoric has become more bellicose, in contrast to his predecessors, who avoided inflammatory language. Nick Miroff, Washington Post, "Chad Wolf emerges as Trump’s favorite Department of Homeland Security chief," 3 Aug. 2020 The friendly overtures mark a stark turnaround from recent bellicose rhetoric and armed skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah, which is both an armed militant group and political party in Lebanon. Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, "After days of tension, Israel offers aid for devastated Beirut," 6 Aug. 2020 The hermit nation made the bellicose statement Thursday, which corresponds with the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "North Korea says it must 'counter nuclear with nuclear' regarding US," 25 June 2020 The clash drew a conspicuously low-key response from the Chinese government, unlike incidents in military theaters such as the Taiwan Strait, where minor provocations by the US military often lead to bellicose warnings from Beijing. Joanna Slater,, "India and China trade barbs after ‘gang war’ high in the Himalayas," 17 June 2020 Thomas Henry Huxley, the bellicose Darwinian anatomist and paleontologist, gave the college’s inaugural address and devoted almost all of it to celebrating this act of exclusion. Jessica Riskin, The New York Review of Books, "Just Use Your Thinking Pump!," 17 June 2020 Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, suggested that the increasingly bellicose tone was politically motivated. NBC News, "Should the U.S. refuse to pay back its $1 trillion debt to China?," 11 June 2020 The Trump Administration, though, has complicated negotiations with bellicose rhetoric and demands for Maduro’s arrest. Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker, "Hunger, Infection, and Repression: Venezuela’s Coronavirus Calamity," 29 May 2020 That year an eminently qualified candidate who embodied a notably bellicose variant of the Marshall tradition lost to an opponent who openly mocked that tradition while possessing no qualifications for high office whatsoever. Andrew J. Bacevich, Harper's Magazine, "The Old Normal," 27 Apr. 2020

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

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First Known Use of bellicose

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bellicose

Middle English, from Latin bellicosus, from bellicus of war, from bellum war

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Time Traveler for bellicose

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The first known use of bellicose was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

8 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bellicose.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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How to pronounce bellicose (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of bellicose

formal : having or showing a tendency to argue or fight

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