Definition of contretemps in US English:



  • 1A minor dispute or disagreement.

    ‘she had occasional contretemps with her staff’
    • ‘It's hard to ignore the interoffice elements of the contretemps.’
    • ‘The episode evoked an earlier contretemps, when the ministry of culture judged the visual-arts biennale to be overly sympathetic to new media at the expense of painting.’
    • ‘Stay tuned for how this little contretemps resolves itself.’
    • ‘The answer may have something to do with the intervening contretemps over the Rosenbergs: It's harder to feel loyal to a movement when large segments of it are already attempting to excommunicate you.’
    • ‘What provoked the series of events that led to her going away, many months earlier, was a dinner-table contretemps in the Partridge household.’
    • ‘This contretemps may have resulted, in part, from a simple paucity of means: only $500,000 was allotted for the whole undertaking.’
    • ‘Then you find yourself in the midst of a minor contretemps, and everyone gets more readers.’
    • ‘I think that is what prompted the unfortunate contretemps this evening.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, the largest contretemps of the campaign season erupted between two studios that are not even in the race for best picture.’
    • ‘Though there has been speculation that the foreign partners withdrew fearing a diplomatic contretemps between the two governments, some analysts reckon their concerns were largely economic.’
    • ‘I frankly like the guy, after our little contretemps.’
    • ‘Public contretemps sometimes can't be avoided.’
    • ‘‘Apart from a little contretemps with the lighting backstage and a couple of cases of hay fever, there were no major problems,’ Nicholas relates.’
    • ‘But there are harder battles ahead than that little contretemps in the desert.’
    • ‘The political contretemps is, however, in danger of diverting attention from the delivery of houses, electricity, water and sanitation to the millions deprived under apartheid.’
    argument, quarrel, squabble, altercation, clash, fight
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    1. 1.1 An unexpected and unfortunate occurrence.
      ‘the hotel had to deal with more than one contretemps before the end of the night’
      • ‘Its happy consummation is delayed over five volumes by intrigues, contretemps, and misunderstandings, many of them designed to exhibit the virtues and failings of Camilla, or to test and improve her character.’
      • ‘A contretemps involving mistaken identities reminiscent of the opera lightheartedly weaves through the antics of farmers, dwellers, and other rural folk.’
      • ‘Among the many characters is Professor Godbole, the detached and saintly Brahman who is the innocent cause of the contretemps, and who makes his final appearance in supreme tranquillity at the festival of the Hindu temple.’
      mishap, misadventure, accident, mischance, unfortunate occurrence, awkward moment
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Late 17th century (originally as a fencing term, denoting a thrust made at an inopportune moment): French, originally ‘motion out of time’, from contre- ‘against’ + temps ‘time’.