con·​triv·​ance | \ kən-ˈtrī-vən(t)s How to pronounce contrivance (audio) \

Definition of contrivance

1a : a thing contrived especially : a mechanical device modern contrivances to cook food faster
b : an artificial arrangement or development Mistaken identity is used as a plot contrivance in the story.
2 : the act or faculty of contriving : the state of being contrived

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Synonyms for contrivance


appliance, contraption, gadget, gimmick, gizmo (also gismo), jigger, widget

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Examples of contrivance in a Sentence

The story is filled with plot contrivances that do not fit the ending. He told the story honestly and without contrivance. a contrivance to get out of doing the work He convinced her to go without using contrivance.
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Recent Examples on the Web

While this problem is a mathematical contrivance that has nothing to do with real biology, our second and third problems explore a possible real reason why asexual species fail, despite their reproductive advantages. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘Why Are There Two Sexes?’," 28 July 2017 Ma’s name, Sue Ann Ellington, is a contrivance that combines the socially banal with the culturally extraordinary. Armond White, National Review, "Ma’s Black-Mammy Stereotypes Capture the Illiberal Spirit," 7 June 2019 What should seem like a clarifying moment of truth, of startling geopolitical insight, feels instead like a screenwriter’s skillful contrivance. Justin Chang,, "Violent, self-admiring sequel 'Sicario: Day of the Soldado' gets lost in the desert," 26 June 2018 Dell’s hiring is only the first of many plot contrivances. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘The Upside’ Review: Uplift on Demand," 10 Jan. 2019 But the film's comic contrivances and extravagant banter can seem incongruous in a dramatic context that flips between grotesque parody and gritty realism. Charles Mcnulty,, "Why 'Three Billboards' and 'Call Me by Your Name' leave this theater critic cold," 1 Mar. 2018 But with the right character(s), played by the right actor(s), those contrivances become a path to the sort of joyful human connection Constance is talking about. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Why romantic comedies matter," 29 Aug. 2018 The shenanigans include a variety of mistaken identities, contrivances, duels and what not, ending in a Turkish masquerade. Mark Swed,, "A little operatic help for newspapers: ‘La Gazzetta’ couldn't be better timed," 30 June 2018 At the heart of these movies is, typically, a story contrivance, often involving a character’s false identity or a secret scheme that gets discovered by the end of the second act. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Can Netflix’s Set It Up Help Revive the Romantic Comedy?," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contrivance.' 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 contrivance

circa 1628, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for contrivance

see contrive

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Statistics for contrivance

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for contrivance

The first known use of contrivance was circa 1628

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English Language Learners Definition of contrivance

: something that causes things to happen in a story in a way that does not seem natural or believable
: the use of contrivances in a story
: a machine or piece of equipment made with skill and cleverness


con·​triv·​ance | \ kən-ˈtrī-vəns How to pronounce contrivance (audio) \

Kids Definition of contrivance

: something (as a scheme or a mechanical device) produced with skill and cleverness

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Comments on contrivance

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food or victuals

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