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 While the Eagles have consistently been a tournament team in the Division 2 South bracket, earning the No. 2 seed in the tournament last winter, the Harbormen are perennially in contention for the Division 1A tournament. Jacob Levin,, "Alex Barzowskas reaches his goals on home ice in leading Hingham boys’ hockey to victory," 16 Jan. 2021 After a slow start last season, the Bruins won nine of their last 11 games to place themselves in contention for the NCAA tournament berth. Dylan Hernández Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Mick Cronin’s Bruins are putting on a show even if no one’s there," 15 Jan. 2021 And there were even more women in contention for his season. Martha Sorren,, "Who’s Left On The Bachelor With Matt James… This Week," 11 Jan. 2021 Heading into the final Sunday of the regular season, seven teams have secured playoff spots and 10 others are in contention for seven positions. New York Times, "N.F.L. Week 17 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread," 31 Dec. 2020 The Vikings play Sunday at Detroit, with both teams eliminated from contention for the playoffs, so the best season of Cook's four-year career is all but over. Dave Campbell, ajc, "AP sources: Star Vikings RB Cook absent after father's death," 30 Dec. 2020 Bama and Ohio State have been in the national spotlight and in championship contention for decades. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "Dabo Swinney is the villain that Jim Harbaugh should be: Ranking the coaches that annoy Ohio State fans the most," 30 Dec. 2020 The only scenario where the Saints are eliminated from contention for the 1 seed this week would require a loss by the Seahawks, hence why this is actually the more important matchup of the two. Jeff Nowak,, "Saints want these 4 teams to win in Week 16 (and they've already got 1) in NFC playoff race," 27 Dec. 2020 But New York is still in contention for the NFC East title and the young team has seen improvement after a 0-5 start to the season. Daniel Oyefusi,, "Ravens’ John Harbaugh, Giants’ Joe Judge set to meet in ‘special’ clash," 24 Dec. 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

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

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Statistics for contention

Last Updated

23 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2021.

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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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