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adjective con·ten·tious \kən-ˈten(t)-shəs\

Simple Definition of contentious

  • : likely to cause people to argue or disagree

  • : involving a lot of arguing

  • : likely or willing to argue

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of contentious

  1. 1 :  likely to cause disagreement or argument <a contentious issue>

  2. 2 :  exhibiting an often perverse and wearisome tendency to quarrels and disputes <a man of a most contentious nature>

contentiously adverb
contentiousness noun

Examples of contentious in a sentence

  1. In the perpetual skirmish between science and religion, biological evolution is a contentious battle ground. —Barry A. Palevitz, Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 1999

  2. Creator Jim Davis had spent two years fine-tuning the contentious relationship between the grouchy cat, his milquetoast owner, Jon (Davis' pen-and-ink alter ego), and befuddled dog Odie—in a strip he'd thought would be called Jon. —Beth Johnson, Entertainment Weekly, 19 June 1998

  3. Historians, admittedly a contentious lot, have failed even to agree on what to call King Philip's War. —Jill Lepore, The Name of War, 1998

  4. My mental attitude when drinking is both contentious and malicious, and while in this mood and state I was the author of statements which I know to be wholly unfounded. —Theodore Dreiser, The Titan, 1914

  5. After a contentious debate, members of the committee finally voted to approve the funding.

  6. The dispute involves one of the region's most contentious leaders.

Origin of contentious

(see contention)

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of contentious

belligerent, bellicose, pugnacious, quarrelsome, contentious mean having an aggressive or fighting attitude. belligerent often implies being actually at war or engaged in hostilities <belligerent nations>. bellicose suggests a disposition to fight <a drunk in a bellicose mood>. pugnacious suggests a disposition that takes pleasure in personal combat <a pugnacious gangster>. quarrelsome stresses an ill-natured readiness to fight without good cause <the heat made us all quarrelsome>. contentious implies perverse and irritating fondness for arguing and quarreling <wearied by his contentious disposition>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up contentious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a timid, meek, or unassertive person

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