con·​trive kən-ˈtrīv How to pronounce contrive (audio)
contrived; contriving

transitive verb

: devise, plan
contrive ways of handling the situation
The prisoners contrived a way to escape.
: to form or create in an artistic or ingenious manner
contrived household utensils from stone
Native Americans contrived weapons out of stone, wood, and bone.
: to bring about by stratagem or with difficulty : manage
he contrived to win their support

intransitive verb

: to make schemes
contriver noun

Example Sentences

The prisoners contrived a way to escape. He contrived a meeting with the president.
Recent Examples on the Web Javice allegedly paid a data science professor $18,000 to contrive a list of more than 4 million fake student names in order to convince the financial giant to shell out the purchase price, the suit claims. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 13 Jan. 2023 The economic plan is to pretend the bad news isn’t happening or contrive some distraction. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 28 July 2022 This plot hole leaves room to contrive a situation in which Kya, whose father eventually leaves too, lives alone in her tiny family house that sits on acres of marshland. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 July 2022 What evolves in that office belies the impersonal surroundings, but not in the soapy ways a writer of lesser gifts might contrive. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 27 May 2022 The House may even contrive a reason to impeach the President, if only for the fun of it. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 1 May 2022 These verbal ornaments give the actors something to work with, lines to inflect and emotions to contrive, as hectic distractions from the fact that their characters are purely puppets, pulled by the dictatorial strings of plot. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 11 Apr. 2022 Unless the Russians contrive a clever reason to desist, the next stage will likely involve the broad deployment of heavy artillery and the beginning of missile strikes on Ukrainian cities. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 1 Mar. 2022 This time, though, there’s no theme to contrive to fit; just look at the headlines about events and trends of the current day. Washington Post, 10 June 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contrive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English controven, contreven, from Anglo-French controver, contrever, from Medieval Latin contropare to compare, from Latin com- + Vulgar Latin *tropare to compose, find — more at troubadour

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of contrive was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near contrive

Cite this Entry

“Contrive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​trive kən-ˈtrīv How to pronounce contrive (audio)
contrived; contriving
: plan entry 2 sense 1, plot
contrive a way to escape
: to form or make in a skillful or clever way : invent
: bring about, manage
contriving to make ends meet
contriver noun

More from Merriam-Webster on contrive

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