a noisy argument
Origin and usage
The noun altercation was first used in English in the late 14th century. It comes from the Latin noun ‘altercatio’, which comes from the verb ‘altercari’, meaning to argue with someone. The verb ‘altercate’ exists but is rarely used nowadays.
Altercation is fancy, Latinate word for a noisy argument or disagreement. It is not a frequent word and is labelled ‘formal’ in Macmillan Dictionary. A corpus search reveals that the most frequent adjective collocates of altercation are ‘verbal’ and ‘violent’, followed by ‘heated’. Slightly surprisingly, altercations are also often described as ‘physical’, which takes them into the realm of physical fights rather than verbal disagreements. Altercations are often said to ‘occur’ or ‘ensue’, the latter suggesting the existence of some triggering incident. They also ‘arise’, ‘break out’ and sometimes ‘erupt’.
“When I was living in New York, there was a lot of screaming in my life. I would just get into these altercations all the time. Being in public, dealing with shopkeepers, just trying to cross the street – things like that.”
disagreement, quarrel, row, fight