belligerent

adjective
bel·​lig·​er·​ent | \ bə-ˈlij-rənt How to pronounce belligerent (audio) , -ˈli-jə- \

Definition of belligerent

1 : inclined to or exhibiting assertiveness, hostility, or combativeness
2 : waging war specifically : belonging to or recognized as a state at war and protected by and subject to the laws of war

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Other Words from belligerent

belligerent noun
belligerently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for belligerent

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

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 belligerent in a Sentence

… it took very little alcohol to make him belligerent, and he became even more thuggish and incoherent when he threw in a few sleeping pills as well. — Christopher Hitchens, New York Times Book Review, 8 Oct. 2000 Coots are belligerent, territorial, quick-tempered birds. Nothing irritates a coot like another coot … — Kenneth Brower, Smithsonian, December 1998 Instead, we revered the guys on the streets, the thugs who were brazen and belligerent. They wore their hats backwards, left their belt buckles unfastened and shoelaces untied. — Nathan McCall, Washington Post, 25-31 Mar. 1991 She was a brigantine, a small two-masted vessel, refitted for belligerent action in the newly created American Navy. — Barbara W. Tuchman, The First Salute, 1988 He was drunk and belligerent. the coach became quite belligerent and spit at an umpire after being thrown out of the game
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Recent Examples on the Web Childhood, a common contemporary Japanese motif, has been theorized as representing the infantilization of a once-belligerent imperial society laid low amid the death and humiliation of World War II. Los Angeles Times, "Review: LACMA reopens with six shows that hint to what the future museum will be like," 1 Apr. 2021 Braun said Satchell was intoxicated and belligerent with nightclub staff. Tim Craig, Washington Post, "A woman couldn’t breathe in Miami. Now she wants justice for George Floyd.," 12 Mar. 2021 Samano then became belligerent and began kicking the inside of the trooper's vehicle, according to suspension records. Taylor Pettaway, San Antonio Express-News, "'Get the f- out of here': SAFD Chief Hood heard cursing during arbitration hearing," 17 Mar. 2021 Many wandered around aimlessly, struggled to communicate, were drunk and belligerent. Shaan Amin, The New Republic, "Why Attack on Titan Is the Alt-Right’s Favorite Manga," 16 Nov. 2020 Trump did fine with a base that loves a belligerent approach. Joe Garofoli, SFChronicle.com, "Debate takeaways: It wasn’t as bad as the last one, but Trump needed better," 22 Oct. 2020 With the arrival of President Joe Biden, less commercially belligerent than his predecessor, there was optimism that the levy might be lifted. Alasdair Lane, Forbes, "Scotland’s Whisky Industry Is Struggling — The Political Consequences Could Be Huge," 24 Feb. 2021 When Jordan discovers that substitute to be a Black man named John Stewart, who neither blinks nor holds his tongue in the face of a belligerent cop, Jordan protests. Reginald Dwayne Betts Kiese Makeba Laymon Carina Del Valle Schorske Dessa Irina Aleksander Sam Dolnick Mark Binelli Maggie Jones Rob Hoerburger Jamie Lauren Keiles Devin Gordon Jazmine Hughes Jenna Wortham Jade Chang Taffy Brodesser-akner Kaitlyn Greenidge Rowan Ricardo Phillips Michael Paterniti Wesley Morris Ismail Muhammad Anthony Giardina, New York Times, "Remembering some of the artists, innovators and thinkers we lost in the past year.," 23 Dec. 2020 After an incident in 2014 when a belligerent city alderman created a disruption in her office, Stewart said security measures were beefed up in her office. Kenneth R. Gosselin, courant.com, "Irate woman demanding to see New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart stabs city hall counter with scissors," 29 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'belligerent.' 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 belligerent

1577, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for belligerent

modification of Latin belligerant-, belligerans, present participle of belligerare to wage war, from belliger waging war, from bellum war + gerere to wage

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Time Traveler for belligerent

Time Traveler

The first known use of belligerent was in 1577

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Statistics for belligerent

Last Updated

10 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Belligerent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/belligerent. Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for belligerent

belligerent

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of belligerent

: angry and aggressive : feeling or showing readiness to fight
formal : fighting a war : engaged in a war

belligerent

adjective
bel·​lig·​er·​ent | \ bə-ˈli-jə-rənt How to pronounce belligerent (audio) \

Kids Definition of belligerent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : carrying on war belligerent nations
2 : feeling or showing readiness to fight belligerent remarks a belligerent stranger

belligerent

noun

Kids Definition of belligerent (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a nation at war
2 : a person taking part in a fight

belligerent

adjective
bel·​lig·​er·​ent | \ bə-ˈli-jə-rənt How to pronounce belligerent (audio) \

Legal Definition of belligerent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : waging war : carrying on war specifically : belonging to or recognized as an organized military power protected by and subject to the laws of war
2 : inclined to or exhibiting hostility or a combative temperament

belligerent

noun

Legal Definition of belligerent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a belligerent nation, state, or person

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Comments on belligerent

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