adjective hos·tile \ ˈhä-stᵊl , -ˌstī(-ə)l \
|Updated on: 18 Aug 2018

Definition of hostile

1 a : of or relating to an enemy
  • hostile fire
b : marked by malevolence : having or showing unfriendly feelings
  • a hostile act
c : openly opposed or resisting
  • a hostile critic
  • hostile to new ideas
d (1) : not hospitable
  • plants growing in a hostile environment
(2) : having an intimidating, antagonistic, or offensive nature
  • a hostile workplace
2 a : of or relating to the opposing party in a legal controversy
  • a hostile witness
b : adverse to the interests of a property owner or corporation management
  • a hostile takeover




play \ˈhä-stᵊl-(l)ē, -ˌstī(-ə)l-lē\ adverb

Examples of hostile in a Sentence

  1. Dugoni, a lawyer who coauthored a nonfiction book about an Idaho worker brain-damaged in 1996 by cyanide fumes, opens his debut novel with a wrongful death attorney in San Francisco, David Sloane, about to make his closing remarks defending a corporation in a similar case. Sloane, who has won 14 cases in a row, hates his arrogant client and must face an obviously hostile jury. Publishers Weekly9 Jan. 2006
  2. Relations with neighboring societies may be intermittently or chronically hostile. A society may be able to hold off its enemies as long as it is strong, only to succumb when it becomes weakened for any reason, including environmental damage. —Jared M. DiamondCollapse2005
  3. I do not want a hostile relationship with my surgeon. But it's obvious he's pigeonholed me into the last of the four patient categories that doctors use when writing a case history: young, middle-aged, senior, elderly. —Sylvia SimmonsNewsweek10 June 2002
  4. Even when one is inside a climate-controlled spacecraft, sheltered from the deadly vacuum outside, space is a hostile setting. Terrestrial organisms venturing off the planet face a number of threats, chief among them cosmic radiation and the near absence of gravity. —Kenneth S. KosikAir & SpaceJune/July 2001
  5. Lotus Development Corp. succumbed to a sweetened offer of $3.52 billion, or $64 a share, from International Business Machines Corp. in one of the fastest capitulations ever in a hostile takeover. A marathon week of negotiations, which began shortly after IBM unveiled a surprise bid of $60 a share for Lotus last Monday, ended yesterday with the signing of a definitive agreement. —Laurie Hays et al.Wall Street Journal12 June 1995
  6. While the stereotype of the tortured artist brooding alone in a drafty garret may be an exaggeration, artists of all kinds—painters, musicians, poets, singers—often find themselves struggling to cope in a … world downright hostile to their work. Financial hardships, loneliness, family members who nag them to get "real" jobs, and their own self-destructive attitudes and habits can block creativity and prevent artists from pursuing their vision. New Age JournalWinter 1995
  7. They were entering hostile territory.

  8. Her suggestions were given a hostile reception.

  9. It was a small town that was hostile to outsiders.

  10. The camel is specially adapted to its hostile desert habitat.

Recent Examples of hostile from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hostile.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of hostile

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin hostilis, from hostis

HOSTILE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of hostile for English Language Learners

  • : of or relating to an enemy

  • : not friendly : having or showing unfriendly feelings

  • : unpleasant or harsh

HOSTILE Defined for Kids


adjective hos·tile \ ˈhä-stᵊl \

Definition of hostile for Students

1 : belonging to or relating to an enemy
  • They entered hostile territory.
2 : unfriendly 1
  • He moved to get away from hostile neighbors.

Law Dictionary


adjective hos·tile

legal Definition of hostile

1 : having an intimidating, antagonistic, or offensive nature
  • a hostile work environment
2 a : of or relating to an opposing party in a legal action
  • a hostile claim
b : adverse to the interests of a party to a legal action
  • if the interests of the party joined involuntarily render him hostile to the original plaintiff, he must remain a defendant
  • —J. H. Friedenthal et al.
3 a : adverse to or incompatible with the interests of a property owner
  • a hostile use
— see also adverse possession at possession, easement by prescription at easement, prescription 1
b : unwelcome by or contrary to the interests of corporate stockholders or management
  • a hostile takeover bid

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