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 Despite their impressive canopies, ficus are susceptible to limb failure, and their particularly belligerent roots warp and buckle sidewalks. Dominic Fracassa, SFChronicle.com, "Another tree drops another limb — 2nd this week — at SF’s Washington Square Park," 28 May 2020 Gorō provokes a belligerent regular by lobbing a slice of naruto, a scalloped white round of fish paste with a candy-pink swirl, at him (the ramen shop equivalent of a pie in the face). Sophie Pinkham, The New York Review of Books, "My Quarantine: Savoring the Ramen Western," 8 May 2020 Spring brings one of the year’s best opportunities to tackle big, belligerent bronzebacks—something veteran bass pro Kevin VanDam knows well. Scott Bestul, Field & Stream, "Kevin VanDam’s Best Tips for Catching Spring Smallmouth Bass," 5 May 2020 An officer was checking on a suspicious vehicle on March 28 when one of the occupants became belligerent and refused to follow commands from officers. Cheryl Higley, cleveland, "Suspected pipe bomb was a false alarm: North Ridgeville police blotter," 4 Apr. 2020 There should be no Marshall Plan for Iran as long as the present regime continues on its belligerent track. A. J. Caschetta, National Review, "Wrong Candidates for Aid, Wrong Time," 4 Apr. 2020 In the long term, however, China’s slow and cautious approach with Iran and the broader region—in contrast to the U.S.'s increasingly aggressive and belligerent strategy—may prove effective. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "As U.S.-Iran Tensions Flare, China Emerges as Tehran’s Last-Ditch Lifeline," 10 Jan. 2020 The iconic designer is characterized as being as vain and belligerent as the peacocks that strutted around his property. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: The Flavor of the American Century," 15 Feb. 2019 This isn’t Donald Trump being belligerent to reporters, or Gavin Newsom unreeling state policy with wonkish ease. John King, SFChronicle.com, "SF’s official coronavirus briefings have a set of rituals all their own," 17 Apr. 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

4 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Belligerent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/belligerent. Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for belligerent

belligerent

adjective
How to pronounce belligerent (audio)

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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