al·​ter·​ca·​tion ˌȯl-tər-ˈkā-shən How to pronounce altercation (audio)
: a noisy, heated, angry dispute
He got into several altercations with his boss.
also : noisy controversy
Choose the Right Synonym for altercation

quarrel, wrangle, altercation, squabble mean a noisy dispute usually marked by anger.

quarrel implies heated verbal contention, stressing strained or severed relations which may persist beyond the contention.

a quarrel nearly destroyed the relationship

wrangle suggests undignified and often futile disputation with a noisy insistence on differing opinions.

wrangle interminably about small issues

altercation implies fighting with words as the chief weapon, although it may also connote blows.

a loud public altercation

squabble stresses childish and unseemly dispute over petty matters, but it need not imply bitterness or anger.

a brief squabble over what to do next

Examples of altercation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Video of the altercation was initially posted by TMZ and on social media on July 4 and Trejo was also seen throwing a lawn chair when other people intervened to break up the altercation. Athena Sobhan, Peoplemag, 8 July 2024 Phillips said Tran did not appear to take anything from the women, and is not believed to have been injured in the altercation. Salvador Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, 8 July 2024 In the altercation, police said Dabbs struck Moore’s fiancee in the face multiple times and fired multiple rounds from the handgun, shooting a passenger in the hand and Moore. Annie Jennemann, Baltimore Sun, 7 July 2024 The two jail employees are Rafael Moreno Jr., who knelt on Johnson’s back for 90 seconds after he had been pepper-sprayed and handcuffed, and Joel Garcia, a supervisor who recorded video of the altercation. Noah Alcala Bach, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 2 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for altercation 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'altercation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English altercacioun, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French altercacion, borrowed from Latin altercātiōn-, altercātiō, from altercārī, altercāre "to dispute vehemently, wrangle" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at altercate

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of altercation was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near altercation

Cite this Entry

“Altercation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


al·​ter·​ca·​tion ˌȯl-tər-ˈkā-shən How to pronounce altercation (audio)
: a noisy or angry dispute

More from Merriam-Webster on altercation

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