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

Definition of pugnacious

: having a quarrelsome or combative nature : truculent

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

Did you know?

Pugnacious individuals are often looking for a fight. While unpleasant, at least their fists are packing an etymological punch. Pugnacious comes from the Latin verb pugnare (meaning "to fight"), which in turn comes from the Latin word for "fist," pugnus. Another Latin word related to pugnus is pugil, meaning "boxer." Pugil is the source of our word pugilist, which means "fighter" and is used especially of professional boxers. Pugnare has also given us impugn ("to assail by words or arguments"), oppugn ("to fight against"), and repugnant (which is now used primarily in the sense of "exciting distaste or aversion," but which has also meant "characterized by contradictory opposition" and "hostile").

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Rosenberger had cofounded the company two years earlier with two partners: the mercurial but brilliant car designer Ferdinand Porsche and his son-in-law, Anton Piëch, a pugnacious Viennese lawyer. David De Jong, Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022 Some of the new arrivals are conservative refugees from blue states like California, who thrill to the pugnacious style of politics that Trump personifies and others emulate. Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 2022 More than three weeks after the crisis began, the mood in Western capitals remains pugnacious and emotive. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 19 Mar. 2022 The film stars Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘s Austin Butler as the King and Oscar-winner Tom Hanks as the pugnacious Parker, who was credited with discovering the singer and launching him into unparalleled fame. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 16 Mar. 2022 Scores of people—current and former employees, angel investors, board members, investors who backed away from investing, and Grover’s batchmates from college—can attest to his pugnacious nature, Economic Times reported. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 20 Jan. 2022 Last summer, the future looked hazy for Jeff Zucker, the pugnacious president of CNN. New York Times, 18 May 2021 And as the Olympics approached its end, the political messaging got more pugnacious. Cnn's Beijing Bureau, CNN, 20 Feb. 2022 Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a British commentator and author with a reputation as an admirably pugnacious contrarian, recalls seeing Churchill in the House of Commons as a schoolboy in 1963. Richard Aldous, WSJ, 8 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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

Learn More About pugnacious

Time Traveler for pugnacious

Time Traveler

The first known use of pugnacious was in 1642

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About pugnacious

Dictionary Entries Near pugnacious

pug moth


pug nose

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for pugnacious

Last Updated

5 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pugnacious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pugnacious. Accessed 17 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on pugnacious

Nglish: Translation of pugnacious for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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