Lookups for truculent spiked on June 4, 2016, following the news that Muhammad Ali had died. Since he was known almost as much for his verbal sparring as for his agile boxing style, many colorful quotations accompanied remembrances of the great man, including this one, an exchange with Howard Cosell:
Cosell: Are you taking Zora Folley too lightly?
Ali: Why would you say that?
Cosell: Because every indication has been that you’re confident that you can beat Zora.
Ali: I’m confident I can whup ’em all. This ain’t nothin’ new. My image has been confident. What you tryin’ to make it look like something new for? I’m always confident. I’ll whup all of ’em.
Cosell: You’re being extremely truculent.
Ali: Whatever truculent means, if that’s good, I’m that.
Truculent in this context means “aggressively self-assertive” or “belligerent.” It comes from the Latin word truc-, trux meaning “savage,” and originally meant “cruel” or “savage” in English as well.
One reason many people may be looking it up in the dictionary is that the pronunciation isn’t easily determined from the spelling of truculent. It is most commonly pronounced \TRUCK-yuh-lent\ (the way Howard Cosell pronounced it), but \TROO-kyuh-lent\ is also an acceptable variant.
Another word associated with Muhammad Ali spiked following his death: legend.