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

1400–50; late Middle English contenciose < Latin contentiōsus, equivalent to contenti(ō) contention + -ōsus -ous
Related formscon·ten·tious·ly, adverbcon·ten·tious·ness, nounnon·con·ten·tious, adjectivenon·con·ten·tious·ly, adverbo·ver·con·ten·tious, adjectiveo·ver·con·ten·tious·ly, adverbo·ver·con·ten·tious·ness, nounun·con·ten·tious, adjectiveun·con·ten·tious·ly, adverbun·con·ten·tious·ness, noun

Synonyms for contentious Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for contentious

Contemporary Examples of contentious

Historical Examples of contentious

  • However, there was nothing rasping or contentious about the interview.

  • An Old Man, afflicted with a family of contentious Sons, brought in a bundle of sticks and asked the young men to break it.

    Fantastic Fables

    Ambrose Bierce

  • Byllinge and Fenwick, though turned Quakers, seem to have retained some of the contentious Cromwellian spirit of their youth.

    The Quaker Colonies

    Sydney G. Fisher

  • In her appearance on our wordy and contentious stage I see the commencement of a new era of things.

  • "A man shouldn't speak more than twice in his first session, and not at first on too contentious a topic," said Sir Edward.

    The New Machiavelli

    Herbert George Wells

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 Formscontentiously, adverbcontentiousness, 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

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