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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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 To their credit, the producers have fun with the contrivance. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' breaks in interactive comedy, and exposes its limits," 12 May 2020 Now, using war in the spirit of Scorsese’s one-shot GoodFellas gimmick, Mendes confirms that contrivance has replaced moral and political response. Armond White, National Review, "1917: War as Video Game and Ceremony," 17 Jan. 2020 Adapting Shakespeare’s play for the musical West Side Story, the playwright Arthur Laurents thought that a plague was too implausible a contrivance to bring about tragedy. Daniel Pollack-pelzner, The Atlantic, "Shakespeare Wrote His Best Works During a Plague," 14 Mar. 2020 Perhaps more problematically, some will reject the catharsis as blunt melodrama triggered by structural contrivance, but the depth of feeling behind Hunter's writing argues against that dismissal. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Greater Clements': Theater Review," 10 Dec. 2019 Through a series of enjoyably odd contrivances, Ian and Barley’s father is magically brought back to life for a day — or rather, the lower half of his body is, thanks to a spell that goes awry in Ian’s unskilled hands. cleveland, "The enjoyable fantasy adventure ‘Onward’ finds Pixar not at its best, but possibly at its weirdest (review)," 2 Mar. 2020 Jessie Buckley as Rose-Lynn Harlan Photo: NEON Come what may in the department of dramatic contrivance, the show belongs to its star. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Wild Rose’ Review: Redemption Song," 20 June 2019 Despite resembling a Hollywood contrivance, the vehicle is actually a potentially new form of electric, urban transportation that could offer Parisians a watery alternative to hailing a taxi, driving a car or hopping on an electric scooter. Washington Post, "The newest hope to beat the traffic: a ‘flying’ water taxi that glides across town," 25 Sep. 2019 Some stray encounters en route to this one are more lifelike than others; Slim’s scene with a dead-eyed convenience store clerk, for example, is pure contrivance. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "‘Queen & Slim’: A first date, a police shooting and a road movie for today (movie review)," 27 Nov. 2019

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

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contrivance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for contrivance


How to pronounce contrivance (audio)

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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