AskDefine | Define hawkish

User Contributed Dictionary



hawk + -ish


  1. Supportive of warlike foreign policy; bellicose; inclined toward military action.
    The Prime Minister could count on the support of a hawkish majority in Parliament to support the invasion.
  2. Favouring increasing interest rates; inclined towards increasing interest rates.
    The Federal Reserve's recent statement on the slowing of inflation was interpreted as hawkish by the market.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

War Hawk is a term originally used to describe a member of the House of Representatives of the Twelfth Congress of the United States who advocated waging war against Great Britain in the War of 1812. The term has evolved into an informal Americanism used to describe a political stance of preparedness for aggression, by diplomatic and ultimately military means, against others to improve the standing of their own government, country, or organization. Thus the hawk (a bird of prey), and is usually contrasted with the term dove, which alludes to the more peaceful bird.

War Hawks of 1812

The War Hawks in the Twelfth Congress were mostly young Democratic-Republicans who had been imbued with the ideals of the American Revolution as youths, and were primarily from southern and western states. (The American West then consisted of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, as well as territories in the Old Northwest, which did not yet have votes in Congress.) The War Hawks advocated going to war against Britain for a variety of reasons, mostly related to the interference of the Royal Navy in American shipping, which the War Hawks believed hurt the American economy and injured American prestige. War Hawks from the western states also believed that the British were instigating American Indians on the frontier to attack American settlements, and so the War Hawks called for an invasion of British Canada to punish Britain and end this threat.
The term "War Hawk" was coined by the prominent Virginia Congressman John Randolph of Roanoke, a staunch opponent of entry into the war. There was, therefore, never any "official" roster of War Hawks; as historian Donald Hickey notes, "Scholars differ over who (if anyone) ought to be classified as a War Hawk." However, most historians use the term to describe about a dozen members of the Twelfth Congress. The leader of this group was Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was another notable War Hawk. Both of these men became major players in American politics for decades. Other men traditionally identified as War Hawks included Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky, William Lowndes of South Carolina, Langdon Cheves of South Carolina, Felix Grundy of Tennessee, and William W. Bibb of Georgia.
The older members of the Party, led by United States President James Madison and Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin tried unsuccessfully to defeat the War Hawks movement. They felt the United States was not prepared for war.

Modern usage

The term War Hawk (or warhawk or hawk) has often been used since the War of 1812 to describe politicians or other persons with "hawkish" positions on warfare. It is sometimes extended to describe a tough stance on other issues, such as "deficit hawk" for someone who puts a high priority on reducing the United States federal budget deficit. A pejorative variation is Chickenhawk, used to belittle someone who advocates war but avoided military service themselves.


hawkish in Japanese: タカ派
hawkish in Finnish: Haukka (politiikka)
hawkish in Chinese: 鹰派
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