bel·​lig·​er·​ence | \bə-ˈlij-rən(t)s, -ˈli-jə-\

Definition of belligerence 

: an aggressive or truculent attitude, atmosphere, or disposition

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Did You Know?

Unlike bellicose and bellicosity, the word belligerence can be used at every level from the personal to the global. The belligerence of Marlon Brando's performances as the violent Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire electrified the country in the 1940s and '50s. At the same time, belligerent speeches by leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States throughout the Cold War were keeping the world on edge. Belligerent is even a noun; the terrible war in the Congo in recent years, for example, has involved seven nations as belligerents.

Examples of belligerence in a Sentence

The result is “Rebirth of a Nation,” a fascinating cultural history that locates the origins of Bush-era belligerence in the anxieties and modernizing impulses of the late 19th century. —“American Macho” P. 17, Beverly Gage, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, June 14, 2009 “We’re never going to play without a heavyweight [because] I need to provide a fear-free environment for my skill guys,” says Brian Burke, Anaheim’s G.M. “But the main reason we have a lot of fighting majors is that we’re committed to a style that leads to [fights]. We prize contact. If you forecheck and bang like we do, sometimes [opponents] turn around and you have to answer the bell. I won’t apologize for that ... In our bottom six forwards, we look for the requisite level of pugnacity, truculence, belligerence, hostility and testosterone.” —“More Than a Big Stick” P. 63, Karl Taro Greenfeld, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Vol. 106 No. 6, February 12, 2007

Recent Examples on the Web

Tusk has described Trump's abrasiveness as a challenge for Europe equal to China's expanding economic power or Russia's belligerence. Raf Casert, Fox News, "Friend or foe at NATO? Who knows when Trump comes to dinner," 10 July 2018 Yet even during this era of intense Southern belligerence, Douglass coupled militancy with pragmatism. John Stauffer, WSJ, "‘Frederick Douglass’ Review: His Tongue the Pen of God," 11 Oct. 2018 The judge denied the accusations with force that sometimes veered into belligerence. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Brett Kavanaugh Has Been Confirmed to the Supreme Court," 6 Oct. 2018 But Iran’s compliance is tenuous, and further belligerence from the US could give Tehran a reason to stop abiding by the deal’s limitations. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Trump’s tweet to Iran threatens a war that would in all likelihood be absolutely catastrophic.," 23 July 2018 North Korea has always reacted to the Ulchi exercises with belligerence and often its own demonstrations of military capability. Washington Post, "Pentagon suspends August military drills with South Korea," 18 June 2018 After spending so much time with Janice, who is serene and twinkly eyed and maddeningly committed to opacity in conversation, anybody might find Lynne's belligerence refreshing. Margaret Gray,, "'An Undivided Heart' on stage is 'Spotlight' meets 'A Civil Action,' with a dash of Tammy Wynette," 9 Apr. 2018 This newspaper would welcome an end to Iranian belligerence and to the regime itself, but a wish based on a hunch is not a policy. The Economist, "Scrapping the Iran deal won’t do anyone any good," 12 May 2018 In a pair of victory speeches, Mr Erdogan lurched from offers of dialogue to displays of belligerence. The Economist, "Turkey’s president sweeps the board and assumes greater powers," 25 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of belligerence

1814, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for belligerence

see belligerent

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Last Updated

16 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for belligerence

The first known use of belligerence was in 1814

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More from Merriam-Webster on belligerence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for belligerence

Spanish Central: Translation of belligerence

Nglish: Translation of belligerence for Spanish Speakers

Comments on belligerence

What made you want to look up belligerence? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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