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

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 Metcalfe did have a contentious primary, where he was criticized for his ties to Daley. Drake Bentley, Journal Sentinel, 23 Sep. 2022 Bridgeland decided to support Ryan after seeing Vance walk back past criticisms of Trump and seek his support in the contentious GOP primary for Portman's seat. Haley Bemiller, The Enquirer, 8 Sep. 2022 And in Suffolk County, voters are also trying to wade through a contentious Democratic primary between Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden and his challenger, Boston city Councilor Ricardo Arroyo. Globe Staff,, 6 Sep. 2022 In 2018, Republicans had a highly contentious primary for governor between DeSantis and Adam Putnam. Anthony Man, Sun Sentinel, 2 Sep. 2022 His opponent will be New York GOP chairman Nick Langworthy, who beat Carl Paladino in a contentious Republican primary Tuesday night. Peter Weber, The Week, 23 Aug. 2022 In Arizona's contentious Republican primary for Senate, Blake Masters won Trump's coveted endorsement in July. Alexandra Marquez, NBC News, 1 Aug. 2022 The contentious trial concluded on June 1 with Depp winning an award of $15 million in damages, which was later reduced to slightly more than $10 million. Los Angeles Times, 21 July 2022 The contentious six-week trial played out not just in the courtroom but on social media, where TikTok was overtaken by memes about domestic violence. al, 14 June 2022 See More

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.

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

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contentious jurisdiction

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Last Updated

3 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

“Contentious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on contentious

Nglish: Translation of contentious for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contentious for Arabic Speakers


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