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

But at a time when the policies of online giants like Google and Facebook has made online privacy a contentious issue, music’s pre-saving process could begin to spark concern among consumers, and perhaps even regulators. Micah Singleton, Billboard, "When You Listen, They Watch: Pre-Saving Albums Can Allow Labels to Track Users on Spotify," 27 June 2019 Pelosi has always worked overtime to avoid the appearance of disunity in her caucus, and here, the rebel Blue Dogs threatened discord over a contentious election issue. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Pelosi Bows to Conservatives on Border Funding," 27 June 2019 Consequently, June is also a busy month for court watchers, who anxiously await decisions on contentious issues. Jack Greiner,, "Strictly Legal: Give me that old time religion," 26 June 2019 The case underscores one of the most contentious issues in the care industry in Ohio: The number of assisted-living centers has increased 181 percent in the state since 1995, with much of that growth fueled by those with serious memory issues. John Caniglia,, "Rape of 95-year-old with dementia raises questions about Ohio’s assisted-living regulations for staffing, training," 23 June 2019 Now Democrats protest the unilateral measures Trump is taking on immigration and other contentious issues., "Joe Biden insists bipartisanship needed to hold U.S. together; Donald Trump says Biden lacks ‘mental capacity’," 18 June 2019 Compensation and working conditions are such contentious issues that the WNBA Players Association has opted out of its collective bargaining agreement after this season. David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "WNBA players risk injury overseas, but they'll keep playing in those leagues," 7 June 2019 But talks stalled over the contentious issue of who would be in charge of the highest decision-making body, the sovereign council. The Economist, "Pro-democracy protesters are slaughtered in Khartoum," 6 June 2019 In California, where seawalls have been the subject of contentious public policy debate, the analysis may not represent the likely course of climate adaptation. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Paying the toll on sea level rise," 20 June 2019

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

9 Jul 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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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).


to complain fretfully

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