bel·​lig·​er·​ence bə-ˈlij-rən(t)s How to pronounce belligerence (audio)
: an aggressive or truculent attitude, atmosphere, or disposition

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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 Yet some domestic pressures on Putin incentivize belligerence, namely the war hawks outside government who continually demand more expansive military mobilization or even the use of nuclear weapons. Austin Carson, Foreign Affairs, 14 Sep. 2023 Even Christie, whose trademark verbal belligerence was widely expected to light up the stage, was hardly more pugnacious than the fiery Haley and Pence, whom the moderators had to lecture to stop hogging the stage. Molly Ball, Time, 24 Aug. 2023 On Tuesday, Torres signed a pledge with a powerful association of some three-hundred eighty thousand military veterans who are notorious for their obdurate conservatism and belligerence. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, 19 Aug. 2023 With this level of belligerence the question is whether Rodríguez Larreta or Bullrich’s electorate will support the victor going into the general election. Agustino Fontevecchia, Forbes, 17 July 2023 The revelations come in a council term marked by belligerence and bullying, in and out of the council chamber, where tempers flare with alarming regularity, fissures often open along racial lines, and the F-bomb has been dropped., 15 July 2023 The world may be focused on Ukraine now because of full-scale Russian belligerence, but the damage has been under way for years, says Mr. Wilmont, whose film has very little to do with war and everything to do with kids. John Anderson, WSJ, 13 July 2023 Only the dominance of Prussia, a foreign power to much of Germany, and severe strategic errors by its leadership led to the two world wars that earned it a reputation for belligerence. Peter H. Wilson, Foreign Affairs, 18 Apr. 2023 But there are, and should be, limits on the exercise of both compromise, and of principled belligerence. Michael Peregrine, Forbes, 6 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'belligerence.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see belligerent

First Known Use

1814, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of belligerence was in 1814

Dictionary Entries Near belligerence

Cite this Entry

“Belligerence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


bel·​lig·​er·​ence bə-ˈlij(-ə)-rən(t)s How to pronounce belligerence (audio)
: a belligerent attitude or disposition

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