Fighting Words

Definition - What does Fighting Words mean?

Fighting words are words that one person says to another that are so cruel and full of malice that they may cause the other person to start a fight with the person who speaks them.

In the context of the law, fighting words are not protected by the First Amendment.

Justipedia explains Fighting Words

Fighting words may involve comments about race, gender, offensive personal information or other topics. Fighting words generally incite a lot of emotional distress.

However, even though fighting words are not protected by the First Amendment, and even though they cause distress, they do not legally justify a retaliatory assault. So, people who hear fighting words from another person should keep in mind that they can still be charged with assault if they start a fight after hearing fighting words.

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