con·​ten·​tion | \ kən-ˈten(t)-shən \

Definition of contention

1 : a point advanced or maintained in a debate or argument It is his contention that allowing a casino to be built would not be in the best interests of the city.
2 : an act or instance of contending He has taken himself out of contention for the directorship.

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Synonyms for contention


argument, assertion, thesis

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discord, strife, conflict, contention, dissension, variance mean a state or condition marked by a lack of agreement or harmony. discord implies an intrinsic or essential lack of harmony producing quarreling, factiousness, or antagonism. a political party long racked by discord strife emphasizes a struggle for superiority rather than the incongruity or incompatibility of the persons or things involved. during his brief reign the empire was never free of civil strife conflict usually stresses the action of forces in opposition but in static applications implies an irreconcilability as of duties or desires. the conflict of freedom and responsibility contention applies to strife or competition that shows itself in quarreling, disputing, or controversy. several points of contention about the new zoning law dissension implies strife or discord and stresses a division into factions. religious dissension threatened to split the colony variance implies a clash between persons or things owing to a difference in nature, opinion, or interest. cultural variances that work against a national identity

Examples of contention in a Sentence

Tiger Woods splashed his way into contention in the New Zealand Open … shooting a four under par to close within six strokes of the lead. New York Times, 13 Jan. 2002 The issues behind the protest are the usual bones of collective-bargaining contention: pay increases, vacation time, union membership. — Louis Menand, New Yorker, 17 & 24 June 2002 Science, and academic scholarship in general, the contention these days goes, is too subjective. Some even allege it's entirely subjective, as is, they say, history. — Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996 All quotes from QDB. That has been a source of contention for years. He is in contention for the Olympic medal.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Hun Sen, who was speaking on the anniversary of his becoming prime minister in 1985, repeated his frequent contention that Western nations have no right to criticize his government with accusations of suppressing human rights and democracy. Sopheng Cheang, The Seattle Times, "Cambodian PM says Western sanctions would hurt opposition," 14 Jan. 2019 His contention that presidents should be free from lawsuits and investigations likely pleases Trump but will confound Democrats. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court nominee short list features candidates President Trump likes for different reasons," 3 July 2018 Facts: Baker bases his contention on an 11th place ranking by U.S. News and World Report from earlier this year. Michael Dresser,, "To err is political: fact-checking the debates of Democratic candidates for Maryland governor," 6 June 2018 Their contention: Inadequate oversight of the family's control was leading to poor performance. Rob Wile, miamiherald, "He created Miami's most famous clothing company. Now he wants it back. | Miami Herald," 17 May 2018 Alba, who briefly held the job of fire chief before he was fired due to a controversy that arose out of an affair with a female co-worker, prevailed in his contention that he was defamed by her lack of candor about their relationship. Jim Riccioli, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ex-fire chief Alba in Waukesha wins defamation lawsuit against against ex-lover and employee, but gets no compensation," 11 May 2018 The last eight employees of Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiaries who remained in contention were eliminated on Friday when Marshall beat Wichita State. Hallie Detrick, Fortune, "Brackets Busted! 8 Consolation Winners of Warren Buffett's NCAA Challenge Will Split $100,000," 19 Mar. 2018 Six vehicle manufacturers are in contention to claim a government contract to create and build a new mail truck for the United States Postal Service, one of which is Oshkosh. Greg Fink, Car and Driver, "This Ford Transit USPS Truck Prototype Could Be Hauling Your Mail Soon," 15 Mar. 2018 The film will be in contention for many awards, ranging from Best Foreign Feature for Poland to nods for director Pawlikowski and star Joanna Kulig. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The 9 Oscar contenders coming out in December," 3 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contention.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of contention

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for contention

Middle English contencioun, from Anglo-French cuntenciun, from Latin contention-, contentio, from contendere

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Last Updated

18 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for contention

The first known use of contention was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for contention



English Language Learners Definition of contention

: something (such as a belief, opinion, or idea) that is argued or stated
: anger and disagreement
: a situation in which you have a chance to win something that you are trying to win


con·​ten·​tion | \ kən-ˈten-chən \

Kids Definition of contention

1 : something that is argued It's my contention that watching television is a waste of time.
2 : anger and disagreement
3 : a state or situation of having a chance to win She's in contention for the gold medal.

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