Fighting Words Definition

A category of unprotected speech, meaning speech that isn't protected by the First Amendment free speech clause. Fighting words are those which "by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace." Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 572 (1942).

While not clearly defined, fighting words includes speech that's likely to provoke a person of reasonable sensibilities to immediately retaliate, often physically. If the listener is prosecuted for assault or battery, claiming fighting words might establish mitigating circumstances.