What is the legal meaning of "Fighting Words"


Fighting words are a narrow category of unprotected speech that are defined as words spoken in a face to face exchange such as personal insults or epithets which by their very utterance are likely to cause the person to whom they are addressed to respond with violence directed at the speaker.

Fighting words must be insults personally directed at the person they are addressed to and not political statements that the hearer finds deeply offensive to his or her beliefs. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between provocative political speech that is fully protected and unprotected fighting words.


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