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 The decision to have Prince William and Prince Harry walk behind the coffin was a topic of contention. Kelsie Gibson, Peoplemag, 16 Nov. 2023 The elevator riders apparently supported the defense's contention that Rubin, not Pelosi or her husband, was DePape's true target, the court employee said. Chris Young, NBC News, 16 Nov. 2023 Shapley's notes from an October 2022 meeting with participants from the FBI and IRS also included the contention that Weiss told investigators the Justice Department's Tax Division was to be part of any charging approval process. Catherine Herridge, CBS News, 9 Nov. 2023 The Swamp joins Missouri's Faurot Field as the only two SEC venues where the Razorbacks have never won, and Arkansas has been reasonable contention in only one of those games, a 23-20 loss in 2009 in Coach Bobby Petrino's second year at the helm. Tom Murphy, Arkansas Online, 4 Nov. 2023 President Biden on Wednesday backed Israel’s contention that a Palestinian group had caused an explosion at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds of people. Katie Rogers, New York Times, 18 Oct. 2023 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 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 30 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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