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Chris Lele

SAT Vocab Friday – Fighting Words

The SAT loves to use the following words in Sentence Completions. Each word means liking to fight, whether physically or with words.


Imagine going to a football game and putting on the jersey of the team that the home team is playing against. Then, say the home team is losing badly–while you, wearing the winning team’s jersey, are dancing on your chair. All those fans around you are likely to get upset—very upset. They are likely to act belligerently, which means you better duck, because they’ll probably throw a punch (or two!).

Upset football fans aren’t the only ones who can be belligerent. Countries, especially those who are waging wars against other countries, are often described as belligerent.


Somebody who is pugnacious won’t necessarily knock your head off—but he or she is likely to bite it off. Quick to argue and make a dispute out of nothing, the pugnacious person is much like that little pug dog. All you have to do is look at it, and it will erupt into a series of spittle-spewing barks.


Contentious can describe a person (one who likes to argue) or an issue (one that is controversial and likely to give rise to argument). Some contentious issues of the moment are gun control, same-sex marriage, and intervention in the Middle East. If you tune in to a radio show or talk show on these issues both the host and guest are likely to be contentious—ready to start angrily arguing their points of view.


The great thing about these words is they are all very similar and you can just lump them into one group—as I’ve done here. To be sure, there are important differences between these words, distinctions you should be aware of if you are going to use these words in your essays, but for the sake of the SAT verbal you can all lump them together.

So it should come as no surprise that somebody who is truculent likes to fight and argue, sort of like a contentious and belligerent person rolled up into one pretty unpleasant person. I like to think of an angry truck driver cutting me off on the highway and then giving me the bird. What a “truck”ulent fellow!

About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 8 million views.

You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog!

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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