Word of the Day




1. behaving in a very unfriendly or threatening way towards someone

2. a hostile place or situation is difficult or dangerous to be in

Origin and usage

The adjective hostile comes from the Latin ‘hostilis’, meaning typical or characteristic of an enemy or ‘hostis’. Its first recorded use is in Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ (1597), while the second comes from the following year and is from another Shakespeare play, ‘Henry IV Part 1’. It may have come into English via the French ‘hostile’ rather than directly from the Latin.


Hostile has several meanings. In addition to the two listed above, it can mean opposing something (public reaction was mainly hostile), or belonging to an enemy (hostile territory). It has a specialist use in business: a hostile takeover is one that is opposed by the target company. A recent use is in the expression hostile architecture, also called defensive architecture. This refers to the design of public spaces in a way that aims to discourage certain uses. Examples might be armrests dividing a bench in order to discourage people from sleeping on it or skateboarding over it, or metal spikes placed outside a building with the same purpose.


“The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.”
(Carl Sagan)

Related words

unfriendly, antagonistic, belligerent

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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