Printable Version
Pronunciation: pêg-nay-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Belligerent, combative, disposed to fight.

Notes: The neat noun suffix for this adjective is, as usual, -ity (pugnacity), though you may say pugnaciousness if you have the time. A close cousin is the adjective pugnant "hostile, vigorously resistant". A distant cousin is pugilist "boxer", with its adjective, pugilistic "pertaining to boxing", and the nouns, pugilistics or pugilism, both of which mean "boxing".

In Play: Pugilistic is usually reserved for actual physical fights; today's Good Word is generally used to refer to combativeness: "Donald Trump's electioneering style is seen by some as pugnacious." The word may be used even more abstractly than that: "If Uber weren't so pugnaciously litigious, they could have saved money by settling most of their cases out of court."

Word History: Today's word originated in Latin pugnax (pugnac-s) "fond of fighting" from pugnare "to fight", based on pugnus "fist". The same PIE root emerged in Greek pygme "fist, boxing" and pyktes "boxer". It also emerged in Latin with a Fickle N as pungere "to pierce, prick", which it inherited from PIE peuk- "to prick". The present participle of pungere is pungen(t)s "stinging", which English borrowed and attached to smells. Pungere was converted by French into point and poindre "to break through, come up (plants)", the present participle of which is poignant. (Jackie Strauss, though far from pugnacious, does scrap for Good Words like today's and has no compunction [another borrowing based on pungere] about recommending her choices.)

Dr. Goodword,

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