con·​triv·​ance | \kən-ˈtrī-vən(t)s \

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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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

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 This idea hit home for me, oddly, in a throwaway comic moment in the second season, which continues the first season’s blend of cloying contrivance and genuine uplift. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "How Queer Is Queer Eye?," 15 June 2018 Weaknesses: There's a contrivance about the development of characters and the storyline. Special To The Oregonian,, "Walt Whitman poem brings two teens together in witty, insightful 'I and You'," 31 May 2018 Various comic contrivances ensue before this messy love triangle gets instantly resolved. John Von Rhein,, "Chicago Opera Theater brings flair to comic, serious Donizetti one-acters," 15 Apr. 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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The first known use of contrivance was circa 1628

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More Definitions for contrivance



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 \

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).


to express warning or disapproval

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