pug·​na·​cious | \ ˌpəg-ˈnā-shəs How to pronounce pugnacious (audio) \

Definition of pugnacious

: having a quarrelsome or combative nature : truculent

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Other Words from pugnacious

pugnaciously adverb
pugnaciousness noun
pugnacity \ ˌpəg-​ˈna-​sə-​tē How to pronounce pugnacious (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of pugnacious in a Sentence

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 Bodo, New York Times, 22 Oct. 1995 Herz sees himself as a pugnacious sardine going up against rule-flouting sharks. — Richard Wolkomir, Smithsonian, August 1992 He was a short man with heavy shoulders, a slight potbelly, puffy blue eyes, and a pugnacious expression. — Alice Munro, New Yorker, 2 Jan. 1989 Podhoretz takes a more pugnacious and protesting stance, insisting on the word "seriousness" at all times and punctuating it with the word "moral". — Christopher Hitchens, Times Literary Supplement, 30 May 1986 There's one pugnacious member on the committee who won't agree to anything. a movie reviewer who is spirited, even pugnacious, when defending her opinions
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Recent Examples on the Web Republicans latched onto Tanden's pugnacious Twitter presence. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Neera Tanden's feud with Bernie Sanders hangs over OMB Senate confirmation," 27 Jan. 2021 One of them was Andrew Jackson, a pugnacious populist and something of a hotheaded role model for Trump. Star Tribune, "Trump: America's sorest loser," 16 Jan. 2021 The pretty, pugnacious, mercurial Fox Richardson is seen as the ultimate black Millennial stereotype through which black victimization goes on forever. Armond White, National Review, "The 100 Percent Pure Cliché of Prison-Reform Activism," 30 Dec. 2020 What’s apparent, as 2020 comes to a close, is that no business model can foster the diverse, noisy, and pugnacious media that American democracy needs to survive. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Make Media Small Again," 22 Dec. 2020 Most officials held a grudging respect for Mrs. Rodríguez, despite complaining about her foul language and pugnacious manner. New York Times, "She Stalked Her Daughter’s Killers Across Mexico, One by One," 6 Dec. 2020 Last week, power struggles led to the dramatic departure of Cummings, Johnson’s pugnacious chief aide and mastermind behind the successful Brexit campaign. Washington Post, "Boris Johnson, in self-isolation, says he’s ‘bursting with antibodies’," 16 Nov. 2020 And it was forecast by practically everyone except pugnacious President Trump and his Republican lemmings. George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Expanding vote by mail in California was a success. Let’s do it permanently," 12 Nov. 2020 Most reflect glee over his pugnacious style and a hunch that his incompetence, notably in handling COVID-19, has usefully harmed America. Star Tribune, "No American election will change China's mind or course," 7 Nov. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of pugnacious

1642, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pugnacious

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

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Time Traveler

The first known use of pugnacious was in 1642

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Last Updated

10 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pugnacious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pugnacious. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of pugnacious

formal : showing a readiness or desire to fight or argue

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