The Meaning of Contention: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of contention? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word contention, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word contention mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word contention refers to a line of argument or a strong disagreement. Contention is three syllables – con-tent-ion, and the pronunciation of contention is kəntenʃən. You might hear the word contention in the phrase bone of contention, main areas of contention, fierce contention, or points of contention. 

Many different languages have translations of contention. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. These can be helpful to know if you are trying to learn more than one language. This list of translations of contention is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Bulgarian: състеза́ние‎ (neut.), съревнова́ние‎, спор‎ (masc.)
  •  Sorani: خه‌بات‎ (xebat)
  •  Swedish: bråk‎ (neut.), dispyt‎ (neut.), dust‎ (neut.), gräl‎ (neut.), träta‎ (common), tvist‎ (common), tvistighet‎ (common)
  •  Russian: спор‎ (masc.), раздо́р‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: väittely‎
  •  Turkish: anlaşmazlık‎, atışma‎, kavga‎, münakaşa‎, tartışma‎, uyuşmazlık‎
  •  Portuguese: contenção‎ (fem.), contenda‎ (fem.)
  •  Norwegian: krangel‎ (masc.), strid‎ (masc.)
  •  Irish: amarrán‎ (masc.), dréim‎ (fem.), bágh‎ (fem.) (literary)
  •  Dutch: strijd‎ (masc.), ruzie‎ (fem.)
  •  Spanish: contienda‎ (fem.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: ceallach‎ (masc.)
  •  German: Streit‎ (masc.)
  •  Georgian: კამათი‎
  •  French: contention
  •  Hindi: विवाद

What is the origin of the word contention?

According to Etymonline, the word contention has been used since the 14th century Middle English contencioun. This comes from the Old French contention/Old French contencion, and directly from the Latin contentionem, which is the past participle of contendere Latin and related to contentiōn and the suffix iōn.

What are synonyms and antonyms of contention?

There are many equivalent words that a person can use in place of the term contention. It is helpful to know synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition or meaning as another word or phrase if someone does not know what the word contention means. Synonyms are a great way to avoid repeating yourself and expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms of contention is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  inharmoniousness
  •  bickering
  •  avowal
  •  competition
  •  difference
  •  collision
  •  dissent
  •  disaccord
  •  polemic
  •  point
  •  antipathy
  •  argumentation
  •  thesis
  •  affirmation
  •  allegation
  •  contest
  •  warfare
  •  variance
  •  spat
  •  premise
  •  feuding
  •  statement
  •  disputation
  •  fighting
  •  view
  •  struggle
  •  quarreling
  •  bad blood
  •  war
  •  feud
  •  strife
  •  case
  •  disunity
  •  dissidence
  •  friction
  •  clash
  •  wrangling
  •  debate
  •  antagonism
  •  disceptation
  •  discussion
  •  rivalry
  •  position
  •  conflict
  •  enmity
  •  division
  •  combat
  •  belief
  •  confrontation
  •  competitions
  •  asseveration
  •  plea
  •  tilt
  •  tension
  •  opinion
  •  controversy
  •  quarrel
  •  schism
  •  inharmony
  •  theory
  •  polemics
  •  opposition
  •  dispute
  •  altercation
  •  difference of opinion
  •  conjecture
  •  squabble
  •  litigation
  •  discord
  •  dissonance
  •  arguing
  •  argument
  •  divisiveness
  •  assumption
  •  hassle
  •  assertion
  •  war of words
  •  declaration
  •  race
  •  disagreement
  •  submission
  •  wrangle
  •  dissension
  •  fight
  •  contestation
  •  postulation
  •  resistance
  •  disharmony
  •  battle
  •  hostility
  •  animosity
  •  discordance
  •  hypothesis
  •  proposition
  •  idea
  •  claim
  •  tiff
  •  averment
  •  supposition
  •  run-in

There are also many different words and phrases that mean the opposite of contention. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another quick and easy way to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms of contention is also provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  communion
  •  general agreement
  •  kindness
  •  resolution
  •  concord
  •  sympathy
  •  amity
  •  consensus
  •  friendship
  •  field test
  •  accord
  •  denial
  •  agreement
  •  cooperation
  •  interpretation
  •  final answer
  •  clarification
  •  affection
  •  love
  •  general consensus
  •  answer
  •  concurrence
  •  certainty
  •  consonance
  •  peace treaty
  •  serenity
  •  convenience
  •  friendliness
  •  compromise
  •  consistency
  •  key
  •  practical consideration
  •  alliance
  •  accordance
  •  explication
  •  peace
  •  harmony
  •  consideration
  •  explanation

How can the word contention be used in a sentence?

The word contention can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definition. You can also make flashcards or quizzes for yourself to test your knowledge and English vocabulary. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several examples of contention to get you started.

The opponents to the Americans met their first place gold medal win with contention, as they wanted to win the prize. They felt the contest was rigged, and that stupid people were assigned to judge. 

There was some contention over the winner of the lotteries – some thought the man who won was just lucky, others thought the parts of a system had been hacked, The telecommunications department, though a limited resource, looked into it. Due to a federal privacy law, they could not take legal action or release the findings, but the “lucky” man’s wind showed dips while other unlikely winners began to win. 

There was contention in the workplace because the new employee felt there were crucial gaps in the workload of his teammates versus himself.  This serious bone of contention led to the new employee of Princeton University getting a lawyer.

Franklin and his sister were both in contention for inheritance – Franklin wanted to build a casino, while his sister wanted to split the money evenly. He did not respond to her correspondence.

There was no supporting evidence for the participants’ claim regarding the private act, so the jury sided with the defense. This key area of contention led to the prosecution spouting dogma and rhetoric in an intense verbal dispute. 

The Bostonians felt contention around the quartering of troops in Boston. In the best interests of the city, they made the assertion and violent argument that they could not stay there. This declaration was just the latest contention between the Americans and the British ministry and member of parliament.

Overall, the word contention means a subject matter of discussion of strife. This word has been used since late 14c.


  1. Contention synonyms – 1 793 Words and Phrases for Contention | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Contention antonyms – 449 Opposites of Contention | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Contention definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  4. contention | Origin and meaning of contention | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. contention: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense