con·​ten·​tion kən-ˈten(t)-shən How to pronounce contention (audio)
: a point advanced or maintained in a debate or argument
It is his contention that allowing a casino to be built would not be in the best interests of the city.
: an act or instance of contending
He has taken himself out of contention for the directorship.
Choose the Right Synonym for contention

discord, strife, conflict, contention, dissension, variance mean a state or condition marked by a lack of agreement or harmony.

discord implies an intrinsic or essential lack of harmony producing quarreling, factiousness, or antagonism.

a political party long racked by discord

strife emphasizes a struggle for superiority rather than the incongruity or incompatibility of the persons or things involved.

during his brief reign the empire was never free of civil strife

conflict usually stresses the action of forces in opposition but in static applications implies an irreconcilability as of duties or desires.

the conflict of freedom and responsibility

contention applies to strife or competition that shows itself in quarreling, disputing, or controversy.

several points of contention about the new zoning law

dissension implies strife or discord and stresses a division into factions.

religious dissension threatened to split the colony

variance implies a clash between persons or things owing to a difference in nature, opinion, or interest.

cultural variances that work against a national identity

Example Sentences

Tiger Woods splashed his way into contention in the New Zealand Open … shooting a four under par to close within six strokes of the lead. New York Times, 13 Jan. 2002
The issues behind the protest are the usual bones of collective-bargaining contention: pay increases, vacation time, union membership. Louis Menand, New Yorker, 17 & 24 June 2002
Science, and academic scholarship in general, the contention these days goes, is too subjective. Some even allege it's entirely subjective, as is, they say, history. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996
All quotes from QDB.
That has been a source of contention for years. He is in contention for the Olympic medal. See More
Recent Examples on the Web But the slides by the Pelicans and Trail Blazers has thrust the Jazz into contention. Gary Washburn,, 18 Mar. 2023 Adding him to this Rockets core alongside Harden could put Houston back into title contention relatively quickly. Bryan Toporek, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2023 That’s critical for a team like the Bears that isn’t one or two pieces away from serious contention. Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune, 13 Mar. 2023 The Ducks still could push into contention for one of the four team trophies awarded with a big second day. Ken Goe For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 10 Mar. 2023 Trailing 4-0 against Army starter Robbie Buecker in the sixth inning, the Razorbacks climbed back into contention when Jared Wegner deposited a curveball from hard-throwing left-hander Sean Dennehey 427 feet to left-center field. Tom Murphy, Arkansas Online, 8 Mar. 2023 But for a team that simply appears to be a quarterback away from serious contention, Douglas' hands are also tied by the Rodgers' gridlock. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, 1 Mar. 2023 Suddenly, everywhere, all at once, the zany sci-fi adventure Everything Everywhere All at Once has pushed itself into front-running contention to win the Oscar best-picture race. Sarah Crompton, Vogue, 27 Feb. 2023 But the Bulldogs clawed back into contention when a Simmons basket sparked a 9-2 run, which ended with Lott’s 3-pointer at the buzzer and trimmed the lead down to eight, setting up the climatic final period. Arthur L. Mack, al, 14 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English contencioun "dissension, dispute," borrowed from Anglo-French cuntençun, contencion, borrowed from Latin contentiōn-, contentiō "exertion, competition, conflict," from conten-, variant stem of contendere "to strain, make an effort, strive, compete" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at contend

Note: Regarding the variant -ten- with deverbal suffixes beginning in -t- (so contentiō rather than *contensiō), see the note at tender entry 3.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near contention

Cite this Entry

“Contention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​ten·​tion kən-ˈten-chən How to pronounce contention (audio)
: an act or instance of contending
: an idea or point for which a person argues (as in a debate or argument)

More from Merriam-Webster on contention

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