adjective con·ten·tious \ kən-ˈten(t)-shəs \
|Updated on: 9 Jul 2018

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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Examples of contentious in a Sentence

  1. In the perpetual skirmish between science and religion, biological evolution is a contentious battle ground. —Barry A. PalevitzSkeptical InquirerJuly/August 1999
  2. 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 JohnsonEntertainment Weekly19 June 1998
  3. Historians, admittedly a contentious lot, have failed even to agree on what to call King Philip's War. —Jill LeporeThe Name of War1998
  4. 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 DreiserThe Titan1914
  5. After a contentious debate, members of the committee finally voted to approve the funding.

  6. The dispute involves one of the region's most contentious leaders.

Recent Examples of contentious from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of contentious

Synonym Discussion of 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

CONTENTIOUS Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of contentious for English Language Learners

  • : likely to cause people to argue or disagree

  • : involving a lot of arguing

  • : likely or willing to argue

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a downward inclination or slope

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