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

Breastfeeding, sadly, can still be a contentious subject—one which people, both mothers and those who are not mothers, have a lot of opinions about. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Actress Nikki Reed Gets Real About Breastfeeding Her 20-Month-Old Daughter," 10 Apr. 2019 After a contentious four-way race for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, Bustos was elected on Thursday, and will be in charge of guiding House Democrats through the 2020 campaign season. Ella Nilsen, Vox, "Bustos will focus her attention on Middle America ahead of 2020.," 29 Nov. 2018 Years before Scott Brown was galavanting around Wellington, the Republican won a special election for Senate in 2010 — and served until Warren defeated him a couple years later in one of the state’s most contentious races in recent history. Jamie Halper,, "Ayla Brown to sing at Beth Lindstrom fund-raiser," 5 July 2018 Tuesday's contentious Republican primary race has two Trump supporters facing off. David Lee Miller, Fox News, "New York Republican Michael Grimm seeks to reclaim congressional seat after prison stint," 25 June 2018 In another contentious House race in Texas, a moderate backed by party leaders defeated a liberal opponent Tuesday. Jonathan Tamari,, "Center and left clash in key South Jersey House race," 24 May 2018 Bateson and fellow Democrat Jessica Morse are locked in a contentious race to finish in the top two of the all-party primary, earning the right to advance to the general election against McClintock this fall. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "Democratic congressional candidate's ad could lead to false impressions | The Sacramento Bee," 15 May 2018 The contentious race threatened the unity of Republican voters and gave Democrats fodder to use against Braun in general election advertisements. Maureen Groppe, Indianapolis Star, "Trump, Pence to tout the economy, rally tonight for Senate GOP candidate Braun in Elkhart," 10 May 2018 There will be no party primaries, so if McDaniel and Hyde-Smith split the Republican voters, that could leave Espy an avenue to win the contentious race. NBC News, "The South is changing. That should worry Republicans in 2018.," 12 Apr. 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.

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First Known Use of contentious

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contentious

see contention

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Last Updated

14 May 2019

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Time Traveler for contentious

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

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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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