Fractious vs fracas

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Fractious and fracas are two words that are close in pronunciation and are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of fractious and fracas, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Fractious means quarrelsome, difficult to control, irritable, hard to handle. Usually, the word fractious is applied to children who are out of sorts. Fractious is an adjective, related words are the adverb fractiously and the noun fractiousness. Interestingly, the word fractious is derived from the word fraction. An obsolete meaning of the word fraction is discord, fighting, quarrelsomeness. This definition of the word fraction is preserved in the word fractious.

A fracas is a noisy to-do, a quarrel, a scrap, a brawl. Fracas is a noun. The word fracas is derived from the Italian word fracassare which means to create a loud disturbance. The plural form may either be rendered as fracas or as fracases.


Aside from being the monarch of 16 Commonwealth realms, Her Majesty has been an unstinting supporter of the wider organisation, visiting every constituent country apart from Cameroon and Rwanda, and acting as a point of unity for a grouping that could easily dissolve into fractious bickering. (The Telegraph)

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008 may have been one of the first (perhaps not coincidentally, that campaign was inept and fractious). (The Economist)

Pistons center Andre Drummond found out Tuesday the price of being involved in a fracas with Nets forward Quincy Acy in Sunday’s game: $15,000. (The Detroit News)

“Our lands and waters are not sterile, and we’re not the only ones occupying them,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, joking that, after a recent fracas after an osprey nest was removed from a utility pole in Riverside, conservationists might need to get into the osprey housing business. (The East End Beacon)