belligerent

play
adjective bel·lig·er·ent \ bə-ˈlij-rənt , -ˈli-jə- \

Definition of belligerent

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

belligerent

noun

belligerently

adverb

Examples of belligerent in a Sentence

  1. … 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 HitchensNew York Times Book Review8 Oct. 2000
  2. Coots are belligerent, territorial, quick-tempered birds. Nothing irritates a coot like another coot … —Kenneth BrowerSmithsonianDecember 1998
  3. 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 McCallWashington Post25-31 Mar. 1991
  4. She was a brigantine, a small two-masted vessel, refitted for belligerent action in the newly created American Navy. —Barbara W. TuchmanThe First Salute1988
  5. He was drunk and belligerent.

  6. the coach became quite belligerent and spit at an umpire after being thrown out of the game

Recent Examples of belligerent from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of belligerent

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

Synonym Discussion of 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 Defined for English Language Learners

belligerent

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adjective

Definition of belligerent for English Language Learners

  • : angry and aggressive : feeling or showing readiness to fight

  • : fighting a war : engaged in a war


BELLIGERENT Defined for Kids

1

belligerent

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adjective bel·lig·er·ent \ bə-ˈli-jə-rənt \

Definition of belligerent for Students

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

2

belligerent

noun

Definition of belligerent for Students

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

Law Dictionary

1

belligerent

play
adjective bel·lig·er·ent \ bə-ˈli-jə-rənt \

legal Definition of belligerent

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

2

belligerent

noun

legal Definition of belligerent

:a belligerent nation, state, or person


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