belligerent, bellicose, pugnacious, quarrelsome, contentious mean having an aggressive or fighting attitude. belligerent often implies being actually at war or engaged in hostilities.
belligerent nationsbellicose 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 quarrelsomecontentious 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. 1995Herz sees himself as a pugnacious sardine going up against rule-flouting sharks.— Richard Wolkomir, Smithsonian, August 1992He was a short man with heavy shoulders, a slight potbelly, puffy blue eyes, and a pugnacious expression.— Alice Munro, New Yorker, 2 Jan. 1989Podhoretz 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 WebWith no precedent for a plucky, pugnacious reservation newspaper, Lakota Times was thought to have little chance of success.
New York Times, 28 July 2022 The streetwise Raoul Walsh, a native New Yorker who came of age at the turn of the century, filmed daily lives with a pugnacious snap that proved sometimes gleeful and exuberant, sometimes embittered and hardened, sometimes terrifyingly domineering.
Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 23 July 2022 The camera crew captured images like close-ups of the frogs’ pugnacious-looking little faces, and establishing shots of the intruder frog entering the scene, at different times using unobtrusive telephoto lenses.
Erin Berger, Outside Online, 30 Apr. 2021 The meeting between Stephen Singer, the pugnacious head of the state’s public defense agency, and Oregon’s chief justice went off the rails almost immediately.
oregonlive, 15 Aug. 2022 Slusher’s pugnacious approach at times led to hard feelings.
oregonlive, 19 July 2022 To his astonishment, the girl’s stepfather, John Callanan, a tough harbor pilot who embodied the new nation’s pugnacious democratic spirit, took Bedlow to court, initiating his prosecution for rape.
Fergus M. Bordewich, WSJ, 22 July 2022 One of the most vocal government cheerleaders is Ramzan Kadyrov, the pugnacious leader of Chechnya, whose Telegram channel has mushroomed to nearly two million followers from about 300,000 before the war.
New York Times, 16 Apr. 2022 In particular, the strength of Émilie is found in her manner—for which the credit should go to Zhang, a young actress whose blunt, somewhat pugnacious way of speaking is an authentic and effective mark of personal style.
Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 14 Apr. 2022 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.