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Borrowed from Latin, from a derivative of pugnāx, from pugnō (I fight), from pugnus (fist).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /pʌɡˈneɪ.ʃəs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪʃəs


pugnacious (comparative more pugnacious, superlative most pugnacious)

  1. Naturally aggressive or hostile; combative; belligerent; bellicose.
    • 1858, Anthony Trollope, chapter 3, in Dr Thorne:
      Not that the doctor was a bully, or even pugnacious, in the usual sense of the word; he had no disposition to provoke a fight, no propense love of quarrelling.
    • 1904, Jack London, chapter 15, in The Sea Wolf:
      As he made the demand he spat out a mouthful of blood and teeth and shoved his pugnacious face close to Oofty-Oofty.
    • 2003, Ken Follett, Hornet Flight[1], →ISBN, pages 249-250:
      In the face of bad news Churchill normally became even more pugnacious, always wanting to respond to defeat by going on the attack.
    • 2014 October 21, Oliver Brown, “Oscar Pistorius jailed for five years – sport afforded no protection against his tragic fallibilities: Bladerunner's punishment for killing Reeva Steenkamp is but a frippery when set against the burden that her bereft parents, June and Barry, must carry [print version: No room for sentimentality in this tragedy, 13 September 2014, p. S22]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Sport)[2]:
      [I]n the 575 days since [Oscar] Pistorius shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, there has been an unseemly scramble to construct revisionist histories, to identify evidence beneath that placid exterior of a pugnacious, hair-trigger personality.


Related terms[edit]