Word: belligerent

Pronunciation: bə-LI-jə-rənt

Part of Speech: adjective


  1. hostile and aggressive
  2. engaged in a war or conflict, as recognized by international law

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Today’s vocabulary word is one that tends to come up frequently in politics. I’ve heard it quite a few times in presidential debates, namely when the candidates are discussing the issue of war. Whether they’re calling each other out or referring to the nation as a whole, politicians like to go for the word “belligerent” when describing a person or country as being generally in favor of war. When a debate turns to foreign policy, you can usually expect this word to pop up at least once; after all, aggressive figures are a common sight in the political scene!

A “belligerent” person is someone who’s aggressive and hostile. “Belligerent” can also refer to a person or nation engaged in a conflict or war recognized by international law. The word arose in the late 16th century and comes from the Latin adjective belliger, meaning “waging war”. This adjective stems from the verb belligerare “to wage war”, which in turn comes from the noun bellum “war”.

I confess that the first time I read the word “belligerent”, I must have thought it had something to do with beauty, as it calls to mind the word “belle”. I never would have imagined that the Latin root of a word as ugly as “war” could sound so lovely. Interestingly, “belligerent” can also be used as a noun, as in “a nation or person engaged in war or conflict, as recognized by international law”. If you write aggressive characters who tend to favor war over peace, “belligerent” is a great word to keep on your shortlist!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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