Adjective – Disputatious
Let’s start with the verb “dispute,” meaning “to debate, to argue, or to argue against, often in a loud, emotional way.” (We looked at “dispute” once before when we studied “undisputed,” a great word for describing things that are so true and clear that everyone agrees and no one argues.)
Another form of “dispute” that’s particularly useful is the adjective “disputatious,” which describes people who are always getting into debates or arguments, even over issues that don’t matter.
DISS pyoo TAY shuss
Part of speech:
Adjective: “a disputatious letter to the editor,” “she’s grouchy and disputatious.”
disputation, disputatiously, disputatiousness
How to use it:
This word is rare and formal. It’s a small step up on the formality scale from “contentious” and “argumentative.” And its tone is very negative.
Choose it when you want to describe people who are cranky, whiny, nitpicking, argumentative, grandstanding, obsessed with being right, or eager to take over normal conversations and turn them into courtroom-like proceedings.
Although it’s most often people (or groups of people) that we call disputatious, you can also talk about disputatious attitudes, speeches, pieces of writing, conversations, gatherings, etc.
“Economists are a disputatious bunch, but across the political spectrum we agree on one thing: Politicians shouldn’t be attacking specific companies based on their own whims or preferences.”
— Sendhil Mullainathan, New York Times, 18 May 2018
“The Western sage Wallace Stegner called our national parks ‘the best idea we ever had.’ Even in these fractious times, I don’t sense much dissent. The pettiness of human disputation gutters in the face of this magnificent land: these seas, these plains, these mountains, these deserts, these islands.”
— David Von Drehle, Washington Post, 19 January 2018