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

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 Note that the actuarial estimate is a fiscal contrivance. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Have We Got a Muni Bond for You," 10 May 2018 The sonnet, an Italian contrivance adapted by the poets of the English Renaissance, was handed down to twentieth-century writers like Robert Lowell and Gwendolyn Brooks and self-consciously Americanized—its gait loosened, its politics sharpened. Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker, "The Politics and Play of Terrance Hayes," 24 June 2018 Its credibility-straining elements are not its academic theories, but its more conventional contrivances of plot. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: A Species on the Brink in ‘Secret Life of Humans’," 7 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

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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

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


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

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