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 pugnacity (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

Like Sanders before her, Grisham has been critical of the media and has ‘‘developed a reputation as a pugnacious defender’’ of the First Lady, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday when Grisham’s new role was announced. Hannah Knowles, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump’s press secretary bruised after jostling with North Korea security over media, report says," 30 June 2019 The pugnacious forward brought a toughness and an ability to guard multiple positions that made the Rockets, when at their best, more than simply a scoring machine. ExpressNews.com, "Who could the Spurs take in the NBA Draft?," 15 June 2019 The persecution of homosexual public servants gave rise to the gay rights movement in the pugnacious person of Frank Kameny, a Ph.D. from Harvard and an astronomer with the U.S. Army Map Service. CBS News, "The lavender scare: How the federal government purged gay employees," 9 June 2019 Muddy Waters, the pugnacious Californian hedge fund run by Carson Block, is enjoying a day in the sun. Carol Ryan, WSJ, "Hedge Funds Score Win Against Regulatory Threats," 24 May 2019 Hogan, then a pugnacious and hard-charging conservative activist, tapped Rutherford as his running mate in 2014, eager for a partner willing to take on the unglamorous parts of governing a state. Fenit Nirappil, Washington Post, "‘Boyd who?’ Maryland’s low-key lieutenant governor embraces his dryness.," 29 Jan. 2018 But the pugnacious politician, remarkably robust at age 92, pulled off a stunning electoral upset on Wednesday, denying his former protege Najib Razak a third term as prime minister and ending the ruling National Front’s 60-year hold on power. Washington Post, "Ex-strongman seeks legacy as savior of Malaysia’s democracy," 12 May 2018 Fortifying President Trump’s pugnacious drive to cripple federal unions, the administration has instructed agencies to move quickly and forcibly to implement his workforce executive orders. Joe Davidson, Washington Post, "OPM guidance pushes quick, forceful action on Trump’s orders to weaken unions, due process," 9 July 2018 In Brafman, Weinstein gets a tactical and pugnacious lawyer willing to fight for him inside court — and outside, too, in pressure-cooker conditions. Washington Post, "Lawyer fights for Harvey Weinstein, in court and out," 4 June 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near pugnacious


pug mill

pug moth


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pug-nosed eel


Statistics for pugnacious

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for pugnacious

The first known use of pugnacious was in 1642

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English Language Learners Definition of pugnacious

formal : showing a readiness or desire to fight or argue

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Nglish: Translation of pugnacious for Spanish Speakers

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