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 The new salience of languages in daily use among only a small minority of people is a reflection of how much Northern Ireland has changed in 50 years of inter-communal contention. The Economist, "Northern Ireland How Ulster Scots and the Irish language got Northern Ireland’s government back," 18 Jan. 2020 The developments applied fresh pressure to senators to call more witnesses for the trial, a main source of contention that is still to be resolved. Lisa Mascaro, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump’s trial begins, senators vowing ‘impartial justice’," 17 Jan. 2020 Several Republican senators have said that Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukraine were inappropriate, but not impeachable, a contention that Mr. Trump and his team dispute. Rebecca Ballhaus, WSJ, "Trump Impeachment Team for Trial to Include Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz," 17 Jan. 2020 Now those six are coworkers at Clemson 27 years after Auburn beat Alabama 22-14 to complete an 11-0 season because sanctions banned the Tigers from a bowl game and national title contention. Michael Casagrande |, al, "Clemson intern Terry Bowden reflects on Auburn, getting fired and hopes for future," 17 Jan. 2020 The Banker is a major part of Apple's push into original content, with its initial December theatrical release date designed for Oscar contention. Paul Bond, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Banker' Subject's Wives Ask Apple to Cancel Film's March Release (Exclusive)," 17 Jan. 2020 Twenty-four acts were in contention for the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s 2020 class, including Outkast, R.E.M., Patti Smith, Journey, Vince Gill and Gloria Estefan. Mesfin Fekadu, USA TODAY, "Mariah Carey, Pharrell Williams, Eurythmics among 2020 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees," 16 Jan. 2020 But Brett Kavanaugh rejected the bank’s contention that the specific structure of this pension plan was relevant. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Supreme Court chief John Roberts reminds USB that no bank is too big to fail," 14 Jan. 2020 The reticence of police and government agencies to be more forthcoming has been in contention over the years. NBC News, "Kansas bill would loosen the release of information related to police shootings," 6 Jan. 2020

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

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contention.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 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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Comments on contention

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


a feeling of well-being or elation

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