con·ten·tious | \ kən-ˈten(t)-shəs \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

His agency’s interactions with the public, and its own employees, seem to be returning to a posture more consistent with past Republican and Democratic administrations after Mr. Pruitt’s contentious and scandal-plagued tenure. Eric Lipton, New York Times, "‘You Can’t Lead Unless You Listen,’ New E.P.A. Chief Says, Signaling Break From Pruitt," 11 July 2018 Now a report from a leading U.S. cybersecurity firm suggests such cases may be linked to a large scale operation from a Chinese cyber espionage group seeking to monitor the country’s upcoming and contentious July 29 national elections. Abby Seiff / Phnom Penh, Time, "Chinese State-Linked Hackers in Large Scale Operation to Monitor Cambodia's Upcoming Elections, Report Says," 11 July 2018 Turkey narrowly approved the executive presidency in a contentious referendum last year. Zeynep Bilginsoy, Fox News, "Erdogan inaugurates Turkey's powerful executive presidency," 10 July 2018 Lingering opposition While the request won a majority of council's support, not everyone on Thursday was convinced it was needed or even the right approach — sentiment that boiled over from a lengthy and contentious committee meeting last month. Jason Pohl, azcentral, "Phoenix police gets go-ahead for $149K study into police shootings as record pace continues," 5 July 2018 England beating Columbia in a dramatic and contentious World Cup shootout on Tuesday, but being unable to beat a bunch of hungry, determined Americans in the greatest shootout of all-time. Mike Bianchi,, "On this Fourth of July in sports, let's remember what makes America great," 4 July 2018 While in past years, chairman elections have been contentious and divisive events, delegates unanimously agreed to re-elect Chairman Jonathan Parker to another two-year term. Kimberlee Kruesi, The Christian Science Monitor, "Idaho GOP convention wrestles with immigration, gay marriage," 2 July 2018 To one degree or another, all of these meetings had been contentious and emotional. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, "Alamo Plaza redesign effort confronts stubborn fear of change," 30 June 2018 However, over the years, repressive political movements—such as the 20th-century dictatorship of General Francisco Franco—have made the practice of these traditions contentious and even dangerous. Kate Keller, Smithsonian, "Beyond the Headlines, Catalan Culture Has a Long History of Vibrancy and Staying Power," 25 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of contentious

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contentious

see contention

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about contentious

Share contentious

Listen to Our Podcast about contentious

Statistics for contentious

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contentious

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for contentious



English Language Learners Definition of contentious

: likely to cause people to argue or disagree

: involving a lot of arguing

: likely or willing to argue

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on contentious

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


by word of mouth

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!