• synonyms


[kon-truh-tahn; French kawntruh-tahn]
See more synonyms for contretemps on Thesaurus.com
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.
Show More

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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

predicament, misfortune, disaster, misadventure, mishap, embarrassment

Examples from the Web for contretemps

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

British Dictionary definitions for contretemps


noun plural -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
  3. a small disagreement that is rather embarrassing
Show More

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for contretemps


1680s, "a blunder in fencing," from French contre-temps "motion out of time, unfortunate accident, bad times;" from Latin contra + tempus (see temporal). As a ballet term, from 1706; as "an unfortunate accident," 1802; as "a dispute," from 1961.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper