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

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 In place of the pugnacious Wayne Rooney is Harry Kane, a soft-spoken goal machine on the verge of superstardom. Sean Williams, The New Republic, "England’s World Cup Team: the Anti-Brexit," 10 July 2018 Mr Ince, who had run a pugnacious, entertaining campaign, capped by a huge rally in Istanbul, finished on a surprisingly feeble note. The Economist, "Turkey’s president sweeps the board and assumes greater powers," 25 June 2018 Some donors in the area see Wagner, a former state senator and owner of a waste-hauling business in York County, as too pugnacious and too far to the right. Andrew Seidman, Philly.com, "Scott Wagner cast himself as Trump-like in his run for Pa. governor. Some Philly-area GOP donors aren't feeling it," 2 July 2018 The interview on Monday also touched on how Giuliani, once hailed in many political corners following his leadership during the September 11 attacks, has become a polarizing figure due to his pugnacious and sprawling defense of Trump. Eli Watkins, CNN, "Giuliani on shifting Trump Tower story: 'It was a mistake. I swear to God.'," 4 June 2018 Barbara Kafka, a popular and sometimes pugnacious cookbook author who touted the utility of the microwave oven and whose recipes for high-heat roasting were considered shocking and even dangerous, died June 1 at her home in Manhattan. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Barbara Kafka, cookbook author who turned up the heat, dies at 84," 2 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


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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

Comments on pugnacious

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


a strong desire or propensity

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