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 At some point, several people pushed their way to Gibson and escorted him down the street, keeping at bay the most belligerent aggressors. Luke Mogelson, The New Yorker, "In the Streets with Antifa," 25 Oct. 2020 Throw in the sense of relief that many people felt when Trump came off as something other than a belligerent drunk, unlike in the first debate, and the president won on points. Willie Brown, SFChronicle.com, "Willie Brown: I know who won the debate. But who’s going to win the election?," 24 Oct. 2020 The initial debate's belligerent tone was somehow fitting for what has been an extraordinarily ugly campaign. The Associated Press, NOLA.com, "Trump and Biden to meet in-person for final presidential debate Thursday; here's what to know," 22 Oct. 2020 The initial debate's belligerent tone was somehow fitting for what has been an extraordinarily ugly campaign. Arkansas Online, "Debate night for Trump and Biden in final campaign face-off," 22 Oct. 2020 The initial debate's belligerent tone was somehow fitting for what has been an extraordinarily ugly campaign. Star Tribune, "High stakes for Trump, Biden heading into final debate," 22 Oct. 2020 He's been both friend and foe of the belligerent president. Laurie Kellman, Star Tribune, "Graham's last stand? Senator leads Barrett court hearings," 11 Oct. 2020 The president was belligerent to the point of nuttiness. NBC News, "Meet the Press - October 04, 2020," 4 Oct. 2020 Tens of millions of Americans watched the hearings, which revealed an increasingly belligerent and drunk McCarthy. Dan Kaufman, The New Republic, "The Real Legacy of a Demagogue," 2 Oct. 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

30 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Belligerent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/belligerent. Accessed 30 Oct. 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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