con·​ten·​tion | \ kən-ˈten(t)-shən How to pronounce contention (audio) \

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


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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 Both Paletko and Abdel-hak noted contention with each other over the years, with Abdel-hak saying his children once won a raffle to have a meal with the mayor in hopes of smoothing things out between the men. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Dearborn Heights mayor asked to resign after 'take care of your kids' comment to resident," 1 Feb. 2020 Through 40 games, Staal now leads the team in goals (15) and points (32), and the Wild have climbed back into playoff contention with 43 points. Dane Mizutani, Twin Cities, "Eric Staal to represent Wild at 2020 NHL All-Star Game," 30 Dec. 2019 The Browns were officially eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Where the Browns pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after Week 16," 24 Dec. 2019 Losers of five of their past six, the Colts will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Colts WR T.Y. Hilton game-time decision vs. Saints; CB Kenny Moore out," 14 Dec. 2019 This season, as Michigan struggled to beat Army, then fell out of Big Ten championship contention with losses to Wisconsin and Penn State, fans questioned Harbaugh’s coaching future well before the biggest test of the year. Jeff Arnold, New York Times, "Will Jim Harbaugh Ever Beat Ohio State?," 29 Nov. 2019 In Newton’s place, the Panthers have surged into playoff contention with second-year pro Kyle Allen at quarterback. Adam Kilgore, The Denver Post, "Cam Newton’s season is over. Where he plays next is an open question. Maybe Denver?," 6 Nov. 2019 Morton Ranch kept itself in playoff contention with a 10-7 victory against Seven Lakes last week. Jack Marrion, Houston Chronicle, "Mayde Creek, Morton Ranch meet with football playoff spot on the line," 5 Nov. 2019 For an Oak Park team that would be knocked out of playoff contention with a loss, Hoerster was staring at a fourth-and-one on his own 38-yard-line. Rich Mayor,, "Oak Park quarterback Jaden McGill takes matters into his own hands in victory against York; Huskies’ playoff hopes remain alive," 20 Oct. 2019

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 "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.

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Time Traveler for contention

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for contention

Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for contention


How to pronounce contention (audio)

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 How to pronounce contention (audio) \

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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