con·​ten·​tion kən-ˈten(t)-shən How to pronounce contention (audio)
: 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.
: an act or instance of contending
He has taken himself out of contention for the directorship.
Choose the Right Synonym for contention

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Using that as a measuring stick, there appear to be nine teams in playoff contention: the top eight plus Louisville. Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2023 Some of those performances sparked viral critique about her stage presence, a growing point of contention for many artists whose careers began and exploded within the confines of the pandemic. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 14 Nov. 2023 How aging affects a pit is the subject of contention, but some things are certain: As the plutonium atoms in a pit decay, their products damage the crystal structure of the plutonium that remains, creating voids and defects. Sarah Scoles, Scientific American, 14 Nov. 2023 In keeping with the general irritability of the populace, grocery stores have become areas of contention, and everyone is armed with ramming carts. Jacobina Martin, Washington Post, 6 Nov. 2023 The other teams in medal contention – Brazil and China – had falls on beam and floor respectively, opening the door for France to contend for a medal. Kaetlyn Liddy, NBC News, 4 Oct. 2023 One factor is a certain contention on the part of streamers in Spanish-speaking Latin America, which means more projects are opting for co-production and sale on the open market, which could be one reason to come to Iberseries & Platino Industria…. John Hopewell, Variety, 2 Oct. 2023 Credit-card fees have been a source of contention for U.S. merchants, who say the fees hurt their bottom-lines. WSJ, 2 Nov. 2023 The format’s five-day layoff for the two best teams in each league adds another layer of contention. Jorge Castillo, Los Angeles Times, 1 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contention.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English contencioun "dissension, dispute," borrowed from Anglo-French cuntençun, contencion, borrowed from Latin contentiōn-, contentiō "exertion, competition, conflict," from conten-, variant stem of contendere "to strain, make an effort, strive, compete" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at contend

Note: Regarding the variant -ten- with deverbal suffixes beginning in -t- (so contentiō rather than *contensiō), see the note at tender entry 3.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near contention

Cite this Entry

“Contention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​ten·​tion kən-ˈten-chən How to pronounce contention (audio)
: an act or instance of contending
: an idea or point for which a person argues (as in a debate or argument)

More from Merriam-Webster on contention

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