A blazing row: words and phrases for arguing and arguments

by Kate Woodford

tolerate_phasalverbsWe can’t always focus on the positive! This week, we’re looking at the language that is used to refer to arguing and arguments, and the differences in meaning between the various words and phrases.

There are several words that suggest that people are arguing about something that is not important. (As you might expect, these words are often used for arguments between people who know each other well.) For example, there’s quarrel, which is both a verb and a noun:

They were quarrelling over whose turn it was to pay.

He’d had a quarrel with one of the other kids. 

To refer to a less serious argument, you can use the verb bicker: Oh, stop bickering, you two!

If the people arguing are children, we might also use the word squabble, (a verb and a noun):

The kids were squabbling over a piece of chocolate.

They’d had a squabble in the playground over something silly.

Other words, meanwhile, suggest that an argument is more serious. The noun conflict describes angry disagreement between people or groups: The issue has provoked conflict between the two leaders.

A dispute is a disagreement, often an official one, between groups of people. It usually lasts a long time:

a bitter/long-running dispute

They have been unable to settle the dispute over working conditions.

Feud (noun and verb) also refers to an angry, long-lasting disagreement:

a family feud

The comment started a feud between the actors, which has played out on social media.

They’ve been feuding with their neighbours for years over a boundary issue.

Fight, (verb and noun) can refer informally to an argument, as well as a physical attack:

We try not to fight in front of the kids.

She’d had another fight with her boyfriend.

If someone picks a fight or a quarrel, they deliberately start an argument with someone: I’m not trying to pick a fight here.

A row (rhymes with ‘cow’) is a noisy argument. You have a row and there is also a verb ‘to row’:

She’d had a row with her boyfriend.

The couple in the apartment below us were rowing again last night.

Note that a blazing row is a very loud and angry argument.

There are several idioms used for arguing. If two people are at each other’s throats, they are arguing angrily: Dan and Jamie were constantly at each other’s throats.

Two people may also be said to cross swords: They’ve crossed swords in the past.

People who lock horns start to argue: The ruling and opposition parties locked horns over the issue.

Finally, there is the phrasal verb to tangle with someone, meaning to argue with them: I certainly wouldn’t care to tangle with her.

We hope you get through this week without locking horns with anyone!

13 thoughts on “A blazing row: words and phrases for arguing and arguments

  1. Elisa

    I am learning English and I have to confess I was quarreling with my mom over making my bed. After the squabble I thought I should look up on the dictionary for it… I’ve already made my bed but still I have the doubt in mind… Should I refer to that that type of small fights as squabbles or as quarrels? Thank you

  2. Boghos L. Artinian

    I would rather argue sitting behind my desk than standing in front of another desk.
    – Boghos L. Artinian

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