Speech meant to provoke a fight or confrontation with someone. The senatorial candidate issued strong fighting words to her opponent today, challenging her to an open debate on the matter of tax increases.
them's fighting words
cliché What was said warrants a fight or confrontation. "Fighting" is often rendered as "fightin'" for colloquial or ironic effect. A: "Your dad was a sissy!" B: "Them's fightin' words, pal—I'm gonna knock your block off!" But to suggest that our nation should bend to the will of another, well, them's fighting words around these parts.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A statement bound to start a quarrel or fight. It is often expressed as them's fighting words, as in You say your father's smarter than mine? Them's fighting words. The ungrammatical use of them's for "those are" emphasizes the folksy tone of this colloquialism, first recorded in Ring Lardner's Gullible's Travels (1917).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.