bel·​lig·​er·​ence | \ bə-ˈlij-rən(t)s How to pronounce belligerence (audio) , -ˈli-jə- \

Definition of belligerence

: an aggressive or truculent attitude, atmosphere, or disposition

Belligerent, Belligerents, and Belligerence

Belligerent may function as either an adjective or a noun. As an adjective, it has two primary meanings, each of which corresponds to the two senses of its noun form.

The older sense (“waging war”) is generally used to refer to the actions or combatants of a nation at war, or to the nation itself ("belligerent operations"; "belligerent troops"; “the belligerent state”); it is paralleled by the earliest sense of the noun, “a nation at war” (“the belligerents assembled at the peace conference”). The second sense of belligerent (“inclined to or exhibiting assertiveness, hostility, or combativeness”), which usually applies to persons or animals, or to their attitudes or actions, likewise parallels the second sense of the noun (“a person taking part in a fight”). A related noun belligerence refers to “an aggressive or truculent attitude, atmosphere, or disposition” that can be either individual or global.

Examples of belligerence in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And then a settler named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, known for his belligerence toward the Indigenous people in the area, was arrested. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, 28 June 2022 Russia has stepped up its belligerence toward Ukraine, with troop movements, frequent attacks through state propaganda channels and direct threats from Russian leadership. Christopher A. Hartwell, WSJ, 10 Dec. 2021 Murders are up, in New York and elsewhere; airlines are reporting unprecedented belligerence from travellers, and even violence. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 2 June 2021 The top challenge: China’s global ambitions and increasing belligerence toward Taiwan. Roger F. Wicker, WSJ, 19 Nov. 2021 Australia’s previous prime minister, Scott Morrison, often spoke about the Chinese government with belligerence as relations hit a decades-long nadir. New York Times, 24 May 2022 For not wanting to be nonbelligerent by naming the terms for belligerence. Solmaz Sharif, The New Yorker, 21 Feb. 2022 At the same time, Russian belligerence would force the U.S. to shift resources and attention away from the Indo-Pacific to Europe. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, 3 Feb. 2022 And that will be part of Biden's mission over the next week -- to unify the region around Taiwan as a deterrent to any Chinese belligerence. Brad Lendon, CNN, 19 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of belligerence

1814, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for belligerence

see belligerent

Learn More About belligerence

Time Traveler for belligerence

Time Traveler

The first known use of belligerence was in 1814

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near belligerence




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for belligerence

Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Belligerence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on belligerence

Nglish: Translation of belligerence for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Commonly Confused Words Quiz

  • vector image of a face with thought expression
  • I went to the ______ store to buy a birthday card.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

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!