adjective pug·na·cious \ ˌpəg-ˈnā-shəs \
|Updated on: 20 Jul 2018

Definition of pugnacious

: having a quarrelsome or combative nature : truculent






play \ˌpəg-ˈna-sə-tē\ noun

pugnacious was our Word of the Day on 06/15/2018. Hear the podcast!

Examples of pugnacious in a Sentence

  1. That's a bass for you: pugnacious, adaptable and ever ready to demonstrate that the first order of business on any given day, drought or no drought, is eating anything that it can fit its big, powerful mouth around. —Pete BodoNew York Times22 Oct. 1995
  2. Herz sees himself as a pugnacious sardine going up against rule-flouting sharks. —Richard WolkomirSmithsonianAugust 1992
  3. He was a short man with heavy shoulders, a slight potbelly, puffy blue eyes, and a pugnacious expression. —Alice MunroNew Yorker2 Jan. 1989
  4. Podhoretz takes a more pugnacious and protesting stance, insisting on the word "seriousness" at all times and punctuating it with the word "moral". —Christopher HitchensTimes Literary Supplement30 May 1986
  5. There's one pugnacious member on the committee who won't agree to anything.

  6. a movie reviewer who is spirited, even pugnacious, when defending her opinions

Recent Examples of pugnacious from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of pugnacious

Latin pugnac-, pugnax, from pugnare to fight — more at pungent

Synonym Discussion of pugnacious

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

PUGNACIOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of pugnacious for English Language Learners

  • : showing a readiness or desire to fight or argue

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up pugnacious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


in proportion

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Test Your Emoji Exceptionalism

  • test-your-emoji-exceptionalism-written-with-a-lot-of-emoji
  • What is this emoji intended to represent: 🤳
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!