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


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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 But the loss of greater context feels worrisomely like an in medias res contrivance, a way to ramp up the energy level before the story leisurely unfolds. Darren Franich,, "The Underground Railroad review: An ambitious American odyssey, compelling even when it's flawed," 4 May 2021 The ritual observation of the passage of FDR’s calendrical contrivance promises to be even more turgid than usual this year. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "America Voted for a Rest, Not a Revolution," 26 Apr. 2021 Instead, this film is nothing more than a modish, superficial contrivance fitting celebrities of color into a Millennial wet dream. Armond White, National Review, "One Night in Miami Erases the True History of 1960s Black Icons," 7 Apr. 2021 The filibuster is an artificial contrivance envisioned as an exceptional tool to give the minority an opportunity for extended debate and a higher threshold to end debate for extraordinarily important legislation. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: The filibuster, impeachment trial, state aid for rebuilding after riots, Twitter," 28 Jan. 2021 Cosmology is certainly a field that relies on some huge and fantastical ideas, but some cosmologists have criticized inflation for being overly neat to the point of contrivance. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "The Universe May Have Actually Started With the Big Bounce—Not a Bang," 14 Dec. 2020 Horn’s branching Gorgonia 12, for instance, named for a genus of corals, is ornamented with blown glass orbs, Christmas tree-like in its contrivance yet still unmistakably bound to the deep, unknowable ocean. Ryan P. Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, "Where Nature and Artifice Collide," 4 Nov. 2020 Eight days before training camp was scheduled to begin this summer, the National Football League unveiled a new contrivance for reducing the spread of COVID-19 on the gridiron. Kent Russell, Harper's Magazine, "America’s Game," 15 Sep. 2020 The sense of contrivance is reinforced by the filmmakers’ coy method of eliciting remarks from their subjects. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Boys State,” Reviewed: A Frustratingly Hermetic View of Texas Teen Politicos," 20 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for contrivance

Time Traveler

The first known use of contrivance was circa 1628

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Statistics for contrivance

Last Updated

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contrivance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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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 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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