Definition of contentious in English:



  • 1Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.

    ‘a contentious issue’
    • ‘He said car use in the city centre was likely to be contentious, but that cars should not be banned - just used in moderation.’
    • ‘This last piece of evidence is particularly contentious and likely to feature prominently in the appeal.’
    • ‘First aid was also a contentious issue in the dispute.’
    • ‘I shall therefore summarise the parties' respective arguments on these contentious issues.’
    • ‘Analogous battles over school finance issues will likely become just as contentious and prolonged.’
    • ‘Climate change legislation remained contentious and it seems likely that it will studied to death until it's too late to do anything.’
    • ‘The most contentious issue is likely to be a provision encouraging commissioners to facilitate voluntary co-operation by witness to be heard in private.’
    • ‘That is a very real concern, as is the fact that the Minister has the power to resolve any contentious or unresolved issues to do with scopes of practice.’
    • ‘But the moves for exemption are likely to prove highly contentious, coming as they do in the run-up to elections to the Scottish parliament.’
    • ‘Thus the issue remains contentious and unresolved at this time.’
    • ‘E-mail is a notoriously bad way to resolve serious disputes over contentious issues, since it easily leads to harsh tones and misunderstandings.’
    • ‘Sex and reproductive control have to become less contentious issues.’
    • ‘Although Tanzania is one of the least densely populated countries in eastern Africa, control and access to productive lands has become an increasingly contentious issue.’
    • ‘Of course controversies and contentious issues have emerged.’
    • ‘Other questions of organizational control are also contentious.’
    • ‘In the long run the most contentious issue is likely to be wages.’
    • ‘It would impose an impossible burden on a jobbing printer to have to employ an in-house lawyer to vet contentious or controversial material.’
    • ‘As I stated in the opening paragraph of my article, the issue is contentious and controversial.’
    • ‘Lin suggested that the legislature could initially review only funds to control the epidemic and leave more contentious issues for further discussion.’
    • ‘Some of the most contentious and disputed issues of our day are matters of bioethics.’
    controversial, disputable, debatable, disputed, contended, open to debate, open to question, moot, vexed
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    1. 1.1Involving heated argument.
      ‘the socio-economic plan had been the subject of contentious debate’
      • ‘One of the most contentious areas of debate concerns the ‘stability’ of contracts.’
      • ‘As well, the contentious debate over the full disclosure of vulnerabilities will continue to rage amongst security stakeholders.’
      • ‘There was no winner in Thursday night's debate, which was the most contentious of the four debates held so far.’
      • ‘I feel somewhat guilty for dismissing what is certainly a very contentious debate in a few lines yesterday.’
      • ‘Did such groups welcome or avoid contentious debates?’
      • ‘Her request was made during a contentious debate about raising admissions standards at Nevada's public institutions, which she opposes.’
      • ‘Such strategies can help cut through contentious debates by providing plans of action that all can agree will play out no matter whose view of the future proves correct.’
      • ‘In 1996, after much contentious debate, Congress passed historic welfare reform legislation.’
      • ‘Nowhere is the debate more lively and contentious than in psychiatric genetics, but in truth there is a dearth of substantiated, empirical data.’
      • ‘Frank, how do Americans view the very contentious debates over teaching evolution and intelligent design?’
      • ‘Citizenship is centred on the notion of autonomous individuals - by definition, adults - making choices about who runs the government and engaging in contentious debate.’
      • ‘The film refuses to judge - both sides of this contentious debate are vividly and powerfully drawn.’
      • ‘The transgene contamination is certain to fuel the contentious debate over the use of genetically modified crops.’
      • ‘It will spark months of contentious debate in Congress, where lawmakers will fight to protect their favored programs.’
      • ‘The coercive powers of the State should not be employed in either side of a debate over contentious morality, but they should be employed to uphold the free choices of adults.’
      • ‘Although many agreed that this system was not compatible with separation, the introduction of a new system was highly contentious and hotly debated.’
      • ‘Thus, the structural trigger for detailed public debate on contentious matters would be gone.’
      • ‘The development of regulations and guidelines for the emerging technologies has led to a contentious public debate about genetic engineering.’
      • ‘We're covering all sides of this very contentious debate.’
      • ‘A contentious and nuanced debate within our polity that is therefore sure to continue is the one about the value and meaning of neo-conservatism.’
      heated, vehement, fierce, violent, intense, impassioned, committed
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    2. 1.2(of a person) given to provoking argument.
      • ‘A small, dark, contentious people known as the Picts held sway over the islands until the eighth and ninth centuries, when Viking invaders arrived.’
      • ‘At about the same time, the Pentagon's exultation of a contentious personality reflected an increasingly codified belief in speed.’
      • ‘I don't like breaches and I am not a particularly contentious person at all, but if my back is against the wall I can certainly muster all my inner forces.’
      • ‘There is nothing contentious or political about them.’
      • ‘The book fails to portray the bawdy and contentious woman who wanted always to be on center stage.’
      • ‘These were complex, troubled, frequently contentious people.’
      • ‘In the commentaries that precede the extracts, the editor is at pains to present potentially contentious figures as unanimously acclaimed.’
      • ‘By all accounts, her husband was contentious and physically abusive.’
      • ‘A strongly contentious figure, he garnered many enemies as well as advocates.’
      • ‘The Greeks did not have the capacity to write philosophy, because they were a contentious people.’
      • ‘A blow to the nose, sharply given by an experienced pastor during a congregational debate, can put a contentious layperson into a stupor.’
      • ‘She'd been expecting a sweet, unfortunate boy that she might perhaps feel some compassion for, but at the moment all she should feel for this contentious lad was anger.’
      • ‘He is known as a bold, often contentious director.’
      • ‘He was, and remains, a contentious figure, accused by some of scheming and power-mongering.’
      • ‘A contentious or belligerent personality toward others is indicative of hyper-sensitivity and a feeling of never being fully understood.’
      • ‘Now the tables are turned on the university's contentious president.’
      • ‘What these beneficiaries of social mobility urged on contentious workers was pious resignation, and in no city did they sermonize more harshly than in Rouen.’
      • ‘We have always been a contentious people without any hesitation to tear down our leaders.’
      • ‘Strange was it to see two so vastly different men as these: Lin was a simple, small town boy, while Jamie was a brilliant, yet from time to time arrogant and contentious man with a youthful side to him.’
      • ‘Cadorna would become one of the most contentious figures in the history of the war.’
      argumentative, disputatious, disputative, confrontational, captious, factious, cavilling, pugnacious, combative, ready for a fight, defiant, hostile, antagonistic, bellicose, belligerent, militant, warring, fighting, battling
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    3. 1.3Law Relating to or involving differences between contending parties.
      • ‘The century-old organization used to be at the mercy of the often contentious parties in Italy's coalition governments.’
      • ‘Very competent counsel represented the parties and settled many of the contentious matters.’
      • ‘We must find an accord, even if it involves the imposition of peace keeping force between the contentious parties.’
      • ‘Solicitors acting for their clients in contentious business of any kind frequently have to write letters which are or may be defamatory of their clients' adversaries.’
      • ‘The Convention has thus not resolved some of the contentious extraterritorial claims by some states.’
      • ‘When counsel appears as a witness on a contentious matter, it causes two problems.’
      • ‘A still more contentious area surrounds the question whether the defendants, or either of them, should be permitted to make purchases.’
      • ‘It is not easy for third parties to intervene in bilateral contentious litigation.’
      • ‘He refrained from reaching any firm conclusion, but said that it was plain that the entirety of the claimants' cases was contentious to a degree.’
      • ‘Of course, there would be limits to this freedom, such as where a party is giving contentious evidence in an arbitration.’
      • ‘I therefore agree that the client care letter or any contentious business agreement should be attached to the bill of costs.’
      • ‘On the other hand, reopening contentious matters or permitting one or more of the parties to add to their case or make a new case should rarely be allowed.’
      • ‘Are there other examples of the Supreme Court resolving contentious moral questions based on ambiguous constitutional text?’
      • ‘My Lord, you will be aware of the contentious nature of this litigation between the parties.’
      • ‘It was also a reform which concentrated on a single, highly contentious aspect of transplantation law and ignored long-standing proposals for reform and European initiatives.’
      • ‘The Continuing Record extends to eleven volumes and includes serious, contentious allegations back and forth between the parties and other deponents.’
      • ‘And what inspiration will a new CEO bring to that very contentious party?’
      • ‘They are inapplicable to orders made by a court of unlimited jurisdiction in the course of contentious litigation.’
      • ‘As between solicitor and client in both contentious and non-contentious costs the taxing officer starts with the retainer.’
      • ‘It looks as if the only contentious affidavit is this one you are about to tell me about, Mr Douglas.’


Late Middle English: from Old French contentieux, from Latin contentiosus, from content- striven, from the verb contendere.