Dispute Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Knowing dispute’s meaning is incredibly important in a lot of modern contexts — this is what it means, and how to use the word today!

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Some words in the English language mean essentially the same thing as other words. The only thing that makes them different is the context in which each word is used. Even if you are technically saying the right thing, using a word in the wrong context can make things feel a little bit awkward. That’s just one of the strange intricacies of the English language in the modern world. 

Especially when it comes to a disagreement or argument, using the proper word can give people a much more precise idea of what you are trying to say. For example, there’s a big difference between the connotations of a spat and a duel. That’s why understanding the term dispute is so important — it clarifies what someone is trying to say and makes it easier to understand them. 

Here is exactly what dispute means, where the word comes from, and how to use it correctly.

What Does the Word Dispute Mean? 

The word dispute (dispute, ˈdɪspjuːt or dɪˈspjuːt) is a synonym for words like disagreement, quarrel, argument, and debate. It is typically used in official matters between lawyers, territories, and other arenas with high brow validity. If you’re having a minor disagreement with someone, you likely won’t call it a dispute. However, if you deal with legal issues, the word dispute is much more common. 

In most cases, the subject of the argument will determine if the word dispute should be used. Legal disputes, labor disputes, and military disputes are among the most common applications for the word dispute. If there is a verbal controversy between two people or a debate that involves witnesses and government officials, the odds are good that it will be called a dispute. 

Where Does the Word Dispute Come From? 

Like many words in the English language, the word dispute has Latin and Indo-European roots. Instead of just coming from one word, however, it is actually a compound word. 

The Latin word dis, which means “apart,” and the phrase putare, which means to “reckon,” came together to form the Late Latin disputāre. This word means “to estimate” and was used within the context of formal disagreements in which people had to find an objectively correct answer. This often required many consultations and was created to solve domestic disputes without the need for a brawl. 

As time went on, the Latin disputare got adopted into the French language in the Old French desputer. This is where the word started to acquire the specific meaning that it has today. After a few centuries, the term finally became the Middle English disputen, from which the word dispute directly originated Most scholars agree that this was right around the time dispute fully acquired the meaning that we are all familiar with today. 

How Is Dispute Used Today? 

When someone disagrees with an assertion made by one party, they will often create a formal dispute with that party to get their point across in an official way. As such, a few kinds of disputes are commonly seen today. 

If two neighbors are having a debate about their property lines, they will create a territorial dispute. If two government parties try to decide on the right decision, they will likely make a legal dispute. If one part of the city feels like they are getting overworked, it will probably unite in a labor dispute to get access to better compensation. 

The concept of a dispute is commonly seen within the context of arbitration. This is a kind of debate in which a third party comes in to legally solve a dispute without a formal lawsuit. This is commonly seen within the context of a copyright issue or contest result. 

Example Sentences Using the Word Dispute

Here are some example sentences using the word dispute. If you are still unsure how to use the word, these will help you see the word in use in authentic contexts. It can often be challenging to understand what a word means without actually seeing it in use while reading example sentences can very quickly expand your understanding of language. 

Take a look at these sentences, and then try to fit the word into sentences that you would use in your own life! 

  • The farmers filed a territorial dispute with the neighboring factories trespassing on their property. 
  • The city decided to move their troops further into the territory of the drug gangs to solve the bitter dispute about who the town belonged to. 
  • Nobody around here really cares what type of dispute is happening as long as it’s interesting to watch! 
  • The dispute over the source of the text led to a long couple of months of legal battles for the author and the copyright owners. 
  • The school system had a lengthy dispute between the professors about whether or not the word was an adjective. 


If you want to learn more about the English language and how to use it properly, one of the best ways to expand your knowledge is by looking around our blog. Here at The Word Counter, it’s our goal to make sure that everyone can have access to resources that will help them communicate in effective and transparent ways. 

We’ve found that effective communication is one of the most essential tools you can have when trying to advance in the world. That’s why we have so many articles up — it can make a real difference in your ability to succeed in life! 

If you want to expand your knowledge of the English language, feel free to take a few minutes to browse through our articles here at The Word Counter — we’re sure that you’ll learn something important! 


  1. Dispute Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com
  2. Dispute – Definition, Meaning & Synonyms | Vocabulary.com
  3. Dispute definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary