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[kuh n-ten-shuh s] /kənˈtɛn ʃəs/
tending to argument or strife; quarrelsome:
a contentious crew.
causing, involving, or characterized by argument or controversy:
contentious issues.
Law. pertaining to causes between contending or opposing parties.
Origin of contentious
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English contenciose < Latin contentiōsus, equivalent to contenti(ō) contention + -ōsus -ous
Related forms
contentiously, adverb
contentiousness, noun
noncontentious, adjective
noncontentiously, adverb
overcontentious, adjective
overcontentiously, adverb
overcontentiousness, noun
uncontentious, adjective
uncontentiously, adverb
uncontentiousness, noun
1. disputatious, argumentative. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for contentious
  • What has become increasingly contentious is the question of how many species can be counted among what has already been collected.
  • The claim that organic meat and produce is more nutritious than nonorganic food is contentious.
  • Instead he faced a contentious and emotionally charged environment caused by their findings.
  • Comb jellies sit alongside two other major groups near the base of the tree, but their relative positions remain contentious.
  • Many researchers will view the publications as the end to a contentious debate.
  • Perhaps there is truth in it, but it is still contentious, and it is at best horribly incomplete.
  • Direct detection of dark matter particles, however, has proved elusive-and contentious.
  • Getting to the vote has been a contentious process for the business school.
  • Economists are also debating other contentious changes to their discipline.
  • But the standing of positive psychology within the discipline at large remains contentious.
British Dictionary definitions for contentious


tending to argue or quarrel
causing or characterized by dispute; controversial
(law) relating to a cause or legal business that is contested, esp a probate matter
Derived Forms
contentiously, adverb
contentiousness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for contentious

c.1500, from Middle French contentieux, from Latin contentiosus "obstinate, quarrelsome," from contentionem (see contend). Related: Contentiously; contentiousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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