Printable Version
Pronunciation: be-lê-kos Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Pugnacious, belligerent, aggressively hostile.

Notes: A cousin of today's word, belligerent, means "aggressive, threatening to fight" and differs from bellicose only slightly. Bellicose may be used in referring to war-loving nations though people who are aggressively loud also fall under its shadow. Bellicosity (the noun) can imply threatening war or fighting without the intent of carrying out the threat. Belligerent refers to people or nations, though nations that initiate war are more likely to be called belligerent. Overly aggressive individuals are pugnacious, a more sophisticated expression for arrogantly "cruisin' for a bruisin'".

In Play: Today's word implies aggressive threats whether full or empty: "Norman's bellicose threat to close down our department if we don't shape up and produce more fell on dead hearing aids." I guess we need a transfusion of "new blood" in the department. The same applies to nations though nations retain the higher stakes of war behind their bellicosity: "The bellicose attitudes brought by the two parties to the negotiating table made a peace accord highly unlikely."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a makeover of Latin bellicosus "warlike," from bellicus "of war," the adjective accompanying bellum "war," as in antebellum "before the war". Where the root of bellum comes from is a mystery. We see traces of it in other words, like rebel and rebellion, both traceable to Latin rebellare "to rebel", made up of re- "again, back" + bellare "to wage war". Bellona was the name of the Roman goddess of war, unsurprisingly. Germanic words like German bellen and English bellow reflect tempting similarities but no etymological association. (We hope that our inability to find a deeper origin for today's Good Word does not make Thel Casper, who suggested we examine it, bellicose.)

Dr. Goodword,

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