Definitions of violent all seem to mention physical force but I am looking for a word to say that someone is suddenly exceptionally aggressive or destructive without being physically so. I want to describe a sudden fit of extreme anger that clouds a person's judgement, but I do not want to imply physical force, though they may take some other non-physical extreme or destructive action.

I would like to say something like "they were violent" but without implying the use of physical force.

Better again if the word can help with implying the action is sudden or impulsive and lacking deliberation or thinking things through.

  • .....Hotheaded. Mar 21, 2017 at 2:30
  • Could you please give us a sample sentence to show us how you want to use the word? Mar 21, 2017 at 2:30

3 Answers 3


Perhaps inimical adj. [AHD]

  1. Injurious or harmful in effect; adverse: habits inimical to good health.

  2. Unfriendly; hostile: a cold, inimical voice.

is far enough removed from clearly denoting violent confrontation for your purposes.

It is usually furnished with a complement ('to good health' etc) when used predicatively.

For the 'overcome with anger' sense,


Someone who is apoplectic is not just mad [incensed] — they're so filled with rage, they can barely communicate.

[Vocabulary.com/dictionary ]


I just found vicious adj. [AHD]

  1. Mean-spirited or deliberately hurtful; malicious: vicious gossip.

  2. a. Extremely violent or injurious; cruel: a vicious blow to the stomach; vicious tactics in suppressing a rebellion.

    b. Marked by an aggressive disposition. Used chiefly of animals.

    c. Disposed to violent or destructive behavior: a vicious dictator.

  3. Severe, powerful, or intense; fierce: a vicious storm.

  4. a. Having the nature of vice; evil, immoral, or depraved: "All men who succeed ... in finance in New York at last ... return to their native towns, assert that cities are vicious, marry their childhood sweethearts" (Sinclair Lewis).

    b. Given to vice, immorality, or depravity: "The sum and substance of it was, That Oliver was a foundling, born of low and vicious parents" (Charles Dickens).

  5. Faulty or defective: a forced, vicious style of prose.

Would it qualify as violent but not physical?

  • 'Extremely violent or injurious; cruel: a vicious blow to the stomach' / 'Disposed to violent or destructive behavior' / 'Severe, powerful, or intense; fierce: a vicious storm' obviously don't. And you stipulated 'without any physical connotations'; senses almost always co-connotate. Mar 20, 2017 at 10:15

I think volcanic is a good fit:

(especially of a feeling or emotion) bursting out or liable to burst out violently

suggestive of or resembling a volcano; potentially explosive; volatile

Example sentence:

His volcanic temper would frequently manifest itself in fits of rage.

Note that there's no explicit mention of violence in the definition. It merely emphasizes the volatility of the person's temperament and the fact that they frequently burst out in violence (be it emotional, verbal, or physical).

The term also fits your requirement of implying that the action is sudden or impulsive.

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