AskDefine | Define belligerence

Dictionary Definition



1 hostile or warlike attitude or nature [syn: belligerency]
2 a disposition to fight [syn: aggressiveness, contentiousness, pugnacity, quarrelsomeness]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a state of being belligerent


Extensive Definition

A belligerent is an individual, group, country or other entity which acts in an aggressive or hostile manner, such as engaging in combat.
In times of war, belligerent countries can be contrasted with neutral countries and non-belligerents. However, the application of the laws of war to neutral countries and the responsibilities of belligerents are not affected by any distinction between neutral countries, neutral powers or non-belligerents. A non-belligerent may nevertheless risk being considered a belligerent if it aids or supports a belligerent in a way proscribed by neutral countries.
An interesting use of the term arose during the American Civil War, when the Confederate States of America, though not recognized as a sovereign state, was recognized as a belligerent power, and thus Confederate warships were given the same rights as United States warships in foreign ports.


Belligerency is a term used in international law to indicate the status of two or more entities, generally sovereign states, being engaged in a war. A state of belligerency may also exist between one or more sovereign states on one side, and insurgent forces on the other side, if such insurgent forces are treated as if they are a sovereign power. International law and practices usually require that belligerency between sovereign states should be preceded by a formal declaration of war prior to such warring states being treated as belligerent states under International law. In the absence of a declaration of war, the exercise or armed force may follow a recommendation, decision or call by the United Nations.
Since the beginning of the crystallization of various concepts of international law, also called the law of nations, the concept of belligerency and the rights and duties of belligerent nations have continued to evolve and become codified. In the modern context, a number of regulations relating to belligerency were annexed to the Hague Convention of 29th July 1899, pertaining to the laws and customs of war. The Convention contained a specific section named Belligerents which was divided into three chapters, dealing respectively with the following:
Once the status of belligerency is established between two or more states, their relations are determined and governed by the laws of war.

See also


belligerence in French: Belligérant

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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