con·​ten·​tious | \ kən-ˈten(t)-shəs How to pronounce contentious (audio) \

Definition of contentious

1 : likely to cause disagreement or argument a contentious issue
2 : exhibiting an often perverse and wearisome tendency to quarrels and disputes a man of a most contentious nature

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Other Words from contentious

contentiously adverb
contentiousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for contentious

belligerent, bellicose, pugnacious, quarrelsome, contentious mean having an aggressive or fighting attitude. belligerent often implies being actually at war or engaged in hostilities. belligerent nations bellicose suggests a disposition to fight. a drunk in a bellicose mood pugnacious suggests a disposition that takes pleasure in personal combat. a pugnacious gangster quarrelsome stresses an ill-natured readiness to fight without good cause. the heat made us all quarrelsome contentious implies perverse and irritating fondness for arguing and quarreling. wearied by his contentious disposition

Examples of contentious in a Sentence

In the perpetual skirmish between science and religion, biological evolution is a contentious battle ground. — Barry A. Palevitz, Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 1999 Creator Jim Davis had spent two years fine-tuning the contentious relationship between the grouchy cat, his milquetoast owner, Jon (Davis' pen-and-ink alter ego), and befuddled dog Odie—in a strip he'd thought would be called Jon. — Beth Johnson, Entertainment Weekly, 19 June 1998 Historians, admittedly a contentious lot, have failed even to agree on what to call King Philip's War. — Jill Lepore, The Name of War, 1998 My mental attitude when drinking is both contentious and malicious, and while in this mood and state I was the author of statements which I know to be wholly unfounded. — Theodore Dreiser, The Titan, 1914 After a contentious debate, members of the committee finally voted to approve the funding. The dispute involves one of the region's most contentious leaders.
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Recent Examples on the Web Monday’s meeting at the White House followed an Oval Office gathering Friday that was one of the most contentious yet of Trump’s seven-week post-election push to reverse his fate. Anchorage Daily News, "Trump turns to fringe element in election fight," 22 Dec. 2020 When talks continued to stall, the bipartisan group rewrote the package a week later, offering a second proposal that stripped out the most contentious parts of the legislation addressing state and local funding and lawsuit liability reform. Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner, "New bipartisan gang flexes muscles in Congress," 17 Dec. 2020 One of the most contentious and closely watched presidential elections in U.S. history comes one step close to completion as the Electoral College meets Monday. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "Live politics updates: Early in-person voting begin in Georgia runoff election," 15 Dec. 2020 The question of whether central banks should use their vast bond-buying programmes to fight climate change by selling the bonds of the heaviest carbon emitters and buying more green bonds is one of the most contentious areas of monetary policy. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Fed Joins the Climate Club," 15 Dec. 2020 One is for $748 billion and includes areas of accord like vaccine funding and aid to small businesses, and the other wraps the two most contentious items, including $160 billion for regional authorities. Laura Litvan,, "Covid-19 Relief Plan Splits Key Aid, Most Contentious Items," 14 Dec. 2020 Only the most contentious, litigious subject Warren has faced in years: whether and where to locate marijuana businesses in Michigan’s third-largest city. Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press, "Warren City Council ignores mayor's veto on marijuana shops," 10 Dec. 2020 Juggling remote learning and work-from-home, helping children deal with unfair pandemic protocols, and explaining racial protests and contentious elections has made family life this year something many would like to forget. Family, "Family Life 2020—in photos," 8 Dec. 2020 The Wildlife Conservation Board on Tuesday now faces what is arguably the most contentious decision of its more than 70-year history. Joshua Emerson Smith, San Diego Union-Tribune, "In a first, California considers allowing housing project on San Diego ecological reserve," 6 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contentious.' 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 contentious

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contentious

Middle English contenciose "quarrelsome," borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French contencieux "subject to disagreement," borrowed from Latin contentiōsus "persistent, obstinate, argumentative, quarrelsome," from contentiō "exertion, competition, contention" + -ōsus -ous

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Time Traveler for contentious

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The first known use of contentious was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contentious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for contentious


How to pronounce contentious (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of contentious

: likely to cause people to argue or disagree
: involving a lot of arguing
: likely or willing to argue

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