A skirmish is a small fight — more a dust-up than a full-out battle — and it can refer to a physical fight or just a battle of words. It is definitely confrontational, though.
Think of a skirmish as kind of a mini-battle, although a military skirmish can end with casualties. Still, although such an encounter can be serious, even the very word skirmish sounds slight, like a stirring of dust in the breeze. Shakespeare referred to the combative nature of his characters Beatrice and Benedick, in "Much Ado About Nothing," as "a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her: they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them."