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 Paola Núñez Linares, 37, was shot and killed during a July road-rage altercation in Hurst, according to police. Isabella Volmert, Dallas News, 15 Sep. 2023 During a verbal altercation at a Delaware high school earlier this year, an employee grabbed one student’s shoulder to pull her away, according to a new lawsuit. Kyle Melnick, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2023 Officers learned that there had been a physical altercation involving several juveniles and that, during the altercation, two Shaker Heights girls, ages 14 and 15, reported that their cell phones were stolen. cleveland, 15 Sep. 2023 In 2020, the city approved a $5.75-million settlement with the parents of a 39-year-old Marine veteran who died after an LAPD officer stunned him six times with a Taser during a 2014 Christmas Eve altercation. Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times, 12 Sep. 2023 The immediate trigger for the altercation was the far-right government’s effort to reduce judicial power. Patrick Kingsley Moises Saman, New York Times, 11 Sep. 2023 The staff and students are happier and there are less altercations. Melissa Willets, Parents, 7 Sep. 2023 Investigators said he was involved in an altercation with two other people before he was shot. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, 5 Sep. 2023 The Post has not independently verified the authenticity of the videos, which appear to capture short snippets of sometimes-brutal altercations between students. Jack Stripling, Washington Post, 4 Sep. 2023 See More

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 2 Oct. 2023.

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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