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

Ever since, tensions between the two countries have been rising once again, culminating in Trump’s belligerent tweet to Iran. Madeleine Ngo, Vox, "“Definitely not”: Iran’s foreign ministry rejects the possibility of a meeting with Trump," 31 July 2018 But the oil market really began to come around to the idea of a heightened conflict with Iran in March when Trump reshuffled his cabinet and nominated some belligerent Iran hawks to his cabinet. Nick Cunningham, USA TODAY, "Oil prices analysis: How high could Trump actions, Saudi efforts push cost per barrel?," 20 Apr. 2018 Among those flanking Trump will be Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, whose belligerent rhetoric toward North Korea briefly derailed the summit last month. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Will Leave Summit With North Korea Early," 11 June 2018 As is often the case with historical events, neither belligerent had much claim to the moral high ground. Max Hastings, WSJ, "The Hidden Atrocities of the Vietnam War," 4 Oct. 2018 In a matter of hours, President Trump and Kim Jong Un will be shaking hands, sizing each other up, and planning for a less belligerent future. Evan Horowitz, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump-Kim summit may be more warm-up act than finale," 11 June 2018 Folk-rock singer-songwriters were newly flush from album sales, concert promoters hadn’t yet figured out how to make money and audiences were increasingly belligerent. Marc Myers, WSJ, "How Joni Mitchell Managed a Rowdy Crowd," 12 Sep. 2018 Luckily, wasps' drunk and belligerent behavior doesn’t last long—once the weather gets cold, the entire colony will die and the queens will hibernate until the drama starts all over again. Megan Friedman, Popular Mechanics, "Watch Out: Wasps Are Apparently Drunk and Angry This Time of Year," 10 Aug. 2018 In the film, Michelle Rodriguez plays a belligerent 18-year-old who fights... Don Steinberg, WSJ, "From ‘Girlfight’ to ‘Destroyer,’ Karyn Kusama’s Women Hit Back," 22 Dec. 2018

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

27 Mar 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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