Also found in: Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


A hostile or warlike attitude, nature, or inclination; belligerency.


1. the act or quality of being belligerent or warlike; aggressiveness


(bəˈlɪdʒ ər əns)

a warlike or aggressively hostile nature, condition, or attitude.


the state of being hostile or at war. — belligerent, n., adj.
See also: War



all horns and rattles Belligerent; angry; enraged. The allusion is to the horns of cattle, used to butt or gore when these animals are angered; and to the rattles of rattlesnakes—horny, loosely connected rings at the end of the tail which are shaken vigorously in warning when this reptile is provoked to attack. The expression was originally used in reference to American cowboys, who because of their work would be closely associated with both cattle and snakes.

at daggers drawn or drawing About to quarrel; on the verge of open hostilities; at swords’ points. In the 16th century, gentlemen often carried daggers. When affronted by either look or gesture, these men would defend their honor by using the dagger.

They … among themselves are wont to be at daggers drawing. (Nicholas Grimaldi, Cicero’s Offices, 1553)

a chip on one’s shoulder A quarrel-some or antagonistic disposition; the attitude of one spoiling for a fight; an un-forgiven grievance; usually in the phrase to have a chip on one’s shoulder. The following explanation of this American expression appeared in the May 183 Long Island Telegraph (Hempstead, N.Y.):

When two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one, and the other demanded to knock it off at his peril.

hawk An exponent of war; an adamant proponent of warlike policy. This term, clearly derived from the aggressive bird of prey, was first used figuratively by Thomas Jefferson in 1798, prior to the War of 1812. The expression was revived during President John F. Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. During the controversial Vietnam War, hawk became an American household word for any person in favor of the war, as opposed to dove ‘peace advocate.’

The committee seems to have become immersed immediately in a struggle between doves and hawks. (D. Boulton, Objection Overruled, 1967)

horn-mad Belligerent, infuriated; mad enough to butt or gore with the horns, as cattle. This term, which dates from at least 1721, appeared in The American Museum:

He is horn mad, and runs bellowing like a bull. (1787)

on the warpath Antagonistic, hostile, deliberately looking for a fight. The warpath was the route taken by the North American Indians on warlike expeditions. By extension, this Americanism came to refer to any individual or group preparing for war or behaving in a hostile, contentious manner.

She was on the war-path all the evening. (Mark Twain, Tramps Abroad, 1880)

speak daggers To speak in such a way as to offend someone, hurt someone’s feelings, or convey open hostility; to use words as weapons of attack; also look daggers.

I will speak daggers to her, but use none. (Shakespeare, Hamlet III, ii)

And do thine eyes shoot daggers at that man that brings thee health? (Philip Massinger and Thomas Dekker, The Virgin Martyr, A Tragedy, 1622)

trail one’s coat To spoil for a fight, to try to pick a fight, to look for trouble. This expression reputedly refers to an Old Irish custom whereby a person spoiling for a fight would drag his coat on the ground as provocation for another to step on it.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.belligerence - hostile or warlike attitude or naturebelligerence - hostile or warlike attitude or nature
ill will, enmity, hostility - the feeling of a hostile person; "he could no longer contain his hostility"
warpath - hostile or belligerent mood; "the chief is on the warpath today"
2.belligerence - a natural disposition to be hostilebelligerence - a natural disposition to be hostile
disagreeableness - an ill-tempered and offensive disposition
bellicoseness, bellicosity - a natural disposition to fight
truculence, truculency - obstreperous and defiant aggressiveness


noun aggressiveness, hostility, animosity, antagonism, destructiveness, pugnacity, combativeness, offensiveness, unfriendliness He could be accused of passion, but never belligerence.




[bɪˈlɪdʒərəns] N belligerency [bɪˈlɪdʒərənsɪ] Nagresividad f


[bɪˈlɪdʒərəns] n (= aggression) → belligérance f


, belligerency
n (of nation)Kriegslust f, → Kampf(es)lust f; (of person, attitude)Streitlust f; (of speech)Aggressivität f


[bɪˈlɪdʒərns] n (see adj) → belligeranza, bellicosità
References in classic literature ?
The little man flung this challenge forth to the whole group, then leaned back in his deck chair, sipping lemonade with an air commingled of certitude and watchful belligerence.
"For the love of Mike," Daughtry pleaded, all of stunned belligerence gone from him in his state of stunned conviction that the dread disease possessed him.
The little lawyer glared at me a moment, and then the belligerence faded out of his face.