Hostility is the emotion felt towards a perceived enemy.

It can be a mixture of different negative feelings. Mistrust, contempt, suspicion, jealousy, envy, spite, and malice could be mixed and still be called hostility. Having an overall attitude towards another that categorises them as an enemy, regardless of specific emotions, is what constitutes hostility.
The word “hostile” is commonly used to describe any unfriendly attitude towards someone. Hostility is characterised by unwillingness to be sociable towards a person or group, yet a reluctance to engage can be caused by many things. Unless a perception of an enemy exists, it’s not hostility.

Nevertheless, sometimes, a continuous denial to relate to other people while consistently seeing them as a threat can be taken as a sign of strong underlying convictions that have developmental history. This means that the people who the hostility is being directed at may not be the people who created the negative attitude originally, buty they are perceived to resemble the makeup of a previous enemy – known as transference. Such recognition of resemblance can happen subconsciously. People can automatically feel hostility, and act on those feelings without knowing it – known as acting-out.

The ability to perceive hostility is important. People may underestimate the negativity of another’s remarks or actions against them. If they realise that a person is being hostile towards them, they can determine the person views them as an enemy. This usually has a contextualising effect as it prompts people to consider why they are thought of as an enemy. Empathy begins. A key tool in conflict resolution, empathy can give people the information they need to defuse a situation.
If people find that they cannot reason with a hostile person, then at least they have gained insight into why they’re receiving negative attention. This enables people to act more appropriately than they could have otherwise, for information is gathered on the reasoning of the hostile person, and so apt defences are developed.


Latin. Hostilis = enemy.

1. Pertaining to the characteristics of an enemy; pertaining to or engaged in actual hostilities.