When getting in a verbal fight, many times we let our emotions take control and dull down our arguments. This invalidates them by making us sound nonintellectual, irrational, and over-emotional. But there are words that can undermine your opponents' arguments and make them feel like the irrational one. Knowing how they are fighting and arguing can increase your odds of winning a verbal fight exponentially. Use these words instead of letting things escalate.

1. Ad Hominem


Root: Latin for 'to the man'


1. Attacking someone's character rather than answering their argument

2. Appealing to prejudices or emotions rather than reason and intellect

Synonyms: muckracking, mudslinging, name-calling, personal attack, smear, slander

When someone is making an ad hominem attack at you, in lieu of the topic at hand they are insulting you as a person and how you are reacting to the situation instead. An example of this would be fighting with a sibling over them stealing your shirt, and them saying you are being possessive over your stuff rather than answering whether they took the shirt or not.

2. Vicarious


Root: Latin for 'change'


1. Enjoyment from imagined participation in an experience of others

2. Performed, thought, received, or suffered in the place of another

Synonyms: by proxy, empathetic, indirect, substituted, surrogate

When you live vicariously through someone, you are living through them and their experiences rather than through your own. Many people live vicariously through another to either avoid their own life, or to feel the pain of those around them. However, you are not entitled to be offended by something that you experience vicariously through another or to make opinions and assumptions because of that.

3. Volatile


Root: Latin for 'fleeting'


1. Threatening to break out into explosive violence

2. Tending to fluctuate often and sharply

3. Changeable, fleeting, transient, mercurial, flighty

Synonyms: erratic, fickle, fleeting, flighty, flippant, inconsistent, temperamental, unstable

When someone is volatile, their behavior is erratic or they are suddenly being violent. An example of this would be a friend getting worked up over something small and then suddenly smashing their phone in anger.

4. Petulant


Root: Latin for 'impudent'


1. Showing sudden and impatient irritation, especially over trifling annoyances

Synonyms: bad-tempered, complaining, cranky, cross, grouchy, impatient, irritable, mean, perverse, petty, pouting, querulous, sour, sulky, testy, whiny

When someone is being petulant, they are being immature and impatient. An example of this is when toddlers throw temper tantrums, but adults can pout over little things as well.

5. Persnickety


Root: Scottish for 'neat'


1. Fussy, snobbish, aloof, and overly particular

2. Requiring painstaking care

3. Excessive attention to trivial details

Synonyms: choosy, fastidious, finicky, fussy, nitpicking, picky, snooty

When someone is being persnickety, they are being picky about every little detail of a matter. For example, if you are asking someone for something, and they pick apart your word choice in how you ask them. Another example would be them getting worked up over trivial details that in the bigger picture don't matter to the argument at hand.

6. Vehement


Root: Latin for 'forecful'


1. Characterized by violence and anger

2. Strongly emotional, intense, zealous, and passionate

3. Noted by strenuous energy and exertion

Synonyms: angry, enthusiastic, fervent, fierce, fiery, forceful, frantic, furious, heated, impassioned, intense, rabid, vicious, violent, wild, zealous

When someone is being vehemently emotional with you, they are likely being loud and angry. An example of this is when people get into fights and as the discussion progresses, both parties slowly get louder and louder the more emotional they get until they are both yelling.

Want to win a fight with a friend or significant other and sound like the rational one? Throw one of these words into your vocabulary next time you start yelling. If nothing else, the words will catch them off guard, or better yet, they won't know what they even mean.