[ kon-truh-tahn; French kawntruh-tahn ]
See synonyms for contretemps on
noun,plural con·tre·temps [kon-truh-tahnz; French kawntruh-tahn]. /ˈkɒn trəˌtɑ̃z; French kɔ̃trəˈtɑ̃/.
  1. an inopportune occurrence; an embarrassing mischance: He caused a minor contretemps by knocking over his drink.

Origin of contretemps

1675–85; <French, equivalent to contre-counter- + temps time (<Latin tempus); perhaps alteration (by folk etymology) of Middle French contrestant, present participle of contrester to oppose; see contrast

Words Nearby contretemps Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use contretemps in a sentence

  • Publishing contretemps aside, Zemeckis said she has no intention of curbing the growth of the Staar empire.

    A Hollywood Wife's Sexy Alter-Ego | Nicole LaPorte | April 20, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • A serious contretemps has occurred which will affect you both if you do not leave immediately on receipt of this.

    The Doctor of Pimlico | William Le Queux
  • Bradish was pretty familiar with the phases and the oddities of the dancing craze, but this contretemps rather staggered him.

    Blow The Man Down | Holman Day
  • This little contretemps somewhat dashed their spirits, but they proceeded nevertheless to the fortune-teller's in their cab.

    Court Beauties of Old Whitehall | W. R. H. Trowbridge
  • "All Monte Carlo seems to be gossiping about that little contretemps," Draconmeyer continued.

    Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo | E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • This contretemps, however, is avoided by placing wet weeds on the eggs and by the general moisture of the nest.

British Dictionary definitions for contretemps


/ (ˈkɒntrəˌtɑːn, French kɔ̃trətɑ̃) /

nounplural -temps
  1. an awkward or difficult situation or mishap

  2. fencing a feint made with the purpose of producing a counterthrust from one's opponent

  1. a small disagreement that is rather embarrassing

Origin of contretemps

C17: from French, from contre against + temps time, from Latin tempus

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