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

Another calendar contrivance, National Oyster Day, is Monday, when South Beach eatery the Local House (400 Ocean Drive) will celebrate with a new cocktail, Oyster & Vodka Are Up To No Good. Ben Crandell,, "Weekend preview: Luke Bryan, dancing in lingerie, tossing watermelons, ’80s date night in Pompano," 31 July 2019 That giant sphere is a contrivance for Luke Halls’ fanciful video images of Earth and the universe. Mark Swed,, "Review: ‘Atlas’ needs no words to astonish as the L.A. Phil wraps its centennial season," 12 June 2019 The contrivance of the project doesn’t bother Brandt. Sam Whiting,, "Sonoma exhibition shows desecration of Africa as people crowd out animals," 2 July 2019 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

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

16 Aug 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

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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