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

Machado wasn’t belligerent, threatening or anywhere close to it. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Machado’s ‘bet’ with Dodgers fan shows off new Padres edge," 6 July 2019 As Iran turns more belligerent, calls for action will grow, not least from his own party (see article). The Economist, "As America and Iran inch closer to war, new talks are needed," 28 June 2019 Laughter sometimes set it off, especially raucous guffaws that the detector apparently mistook for belligerent shouts. Jack Gillum, ProPublica, "Aggression Detectors: The Unproven, Invasive Surveillance Technology Schools Are Using to Monitor Students," 25 June 2019 The Willoughby Hills man, 42, who was the ex-boyfriend of the resident, became belligerent and lunged at officers. cleveland.com, "Family feuds at Elementary School property: South Euclid Police Blotter," 5 June 2019 Gone are the belligerent threats and photos with huge missiles of 2017. Anna Fifield, Washington Post, "Kim Jong Un wants you to know that he’s a totally reasonable global leader," 26 Apr. 2018 The president shouldn’t issue belligerent threats that have no relation to his administration’s actual foreign policy. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "The White House Just Sent an Ominous Signal About Its Plans For North Korea," 31 Jan. 2018 The women are just as blotto and belligerent as the men. Washington Post, "Here’s to the class-conflicted, workplace-inappropriate ‘Below Deck’ — TV’s ideal mental vacation," 13 June 2019 Late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is depicted as a belligerent boss constantly complaining about his fellow owners turning into socialists. Paul Sullivan, chicagotribune.com, "7 takeaways from Bud Selig's new book, including inheriting a 'nightmare' when he took over as MLB commissioner and helping the Cubs land Theo Epstein," 9 June 2019

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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Statistics for belligerent

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for belligerent

The first known use of belligerent was in 1577

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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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