Definition of contrivance in US English:



  • 1The use of skill to bring something about or create something.

    ‘the requirements of the system, by happy chance and some contrivance, can be summed up in an acronym’
    • ‘But her work is very much about contrivance and artificiality.’
    • ‘It's where I find ideas coming to mind in an uncluttered, unhurried way, without pressure or contrivance.’
    • ‘The minds which made the machines, which organized factories and solved the problems of supply and distribution - and did so under high competitive pressure - received an indelible training in practical contrivance.’
    • ‘In our scheme of things it matters not, or it is of no import, whether the people intervene by accident of fate or by way of contrivance.’
    • ‘Although many connect the word with a quiet life of withdrawal, I need a word to designate those times when we sense that a life is being lived well, that a conviction is held honestly, without contrivance.’
    • ‘But this exercise reeks of contrivance and even desperation.’
    • ‘A master at work, he commands the screen with an effortless ease and a complete lack of artifice or contrivance.’
    • ‘His lyrics are incisive and true without self-consciousness or contrivance, yet tackle subject matter as diverse as socio-political commentary to lovelorn heartbreak as skilfully as the best in the genre.’
    • ‘And any reader who had imagined that her helter-skelter style was actually the product of careful contrivance will here be disabused.’
    • ‘This, perhaps, would have been nearly the state of the question, if nothing had been before us but an unorganized, unmechanized substance, without mark or indication of contrivance.’
    • ‘Remarkably, after so much contrivance, the overall esthetic is relaxed and spontaneous, largely because he intercedes with a few gestural strokes of white paint here and there to unify the varied linear elements and textures.’
    • ‘But for a straightforward and practical English girl like herself it was nothing more than a maddening, pointless contrivance that reflected an attitude that was at once phony, deceitful and manipulative.’
    • ‘This contrivance has aesthetic consequences or is associated with aesthetic shortcomings.’
    • ‘Coincidence and contrivance have played a significant role in your work.’
    • ‘It's a surprisingly open statement from a man with the mien of a detached observer, but the band were always about contradictions: irony and sincerity, artful contrivance and warmth, jittery neurosis and celebratory groove.’
    • ‘To the extent that our present structures - while the product essentially of John Hume's contrivance - were put into place by Americans, I think it is proper that we Americans take another hit for this situation.’
    • ‘But there is really nothing of contrivance about it.’
    • ‘It takes staggeringly good writing, assured direction, and note-perfect performances to pull off this kind of thing without leaving the audience laughing in disbelief at the tired contrivance of it all.’
    • ‘Through the insidious contrivance called inflation, they could effectively transfer a portion of the oil fortune into their coffers.’
    scheme, stratagem, tactic, manoeuvre, move, course of action, line of action, plan, ploy, gambit, device, wile
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  • 2A device, especially in literary or artistic composition, which gives a sense of artificiality.

    ‘the often tiresome contrivances of historical fiction’
    • ‘There has been a good balance of comic contrivance with soap-opera storylines.’
    • ‘Its pulsing inventiveness charges the most absurd contrivances with life, just as opera should.’
    • ‘Successful navigation was almost entirely due to the skill of the crew as opposed to any man-made contrivance.’
    • ‘It would have been nice to know if there really was such a thing in the areas that Britain colonized or if it was merely a fictional contrivance of the writer.’
    • ‘It is this that enables him to captivate the reader without recourse to melodrama, to luxuriate in language without falling into self-indulgence, and to weave the novel's numerous threads together without a hint of jarring contrivance.’
    • ‘One has waited in vain for a comparable exhibition there, only to be disappointed by a scattering of shallow displays, rich in contrivance and sparse in substance.’
    • ‘Neither contrivance serves much purpose story-wise, other than to advance time and create tension during commercial breaks.’
    • ‘The overall storyline is slight, and relies on at least one significant contrivance, but the movie offers enough in the way of small pleasures to be worth a recommendation, provided you enjoy this kind of low-key drama.’
    • ‘But the essence of the film - a meditation on gender differences and the fluidity of sexuality merged with a romance - is the film-makers' contrivance.’
    • ‘Further plot contrivances abound, including a gunshot wound that Michael simply shrugs off, all the priest's suspicions about Angela inexplicably dropped, and an illogical and ham-fisted final twist.’
    • ‘A developmentally challenged Italian teenager goes to Berlin with the father he's never met (the film's sole contrivance - wouldn't his guardians come along?) for medical tests.’
    • ‘Even if you look past some of the unbelievable contrivances of this portrayal of the U. S. judicial system and just basic common sense, there's nothing that really stands out in this movie.’
    • ‘Parts seemed unnecessarily padded, and there was a lot of contrivance in dialogue.’
    • ‘And then it ends in sexy hilarity with some clever contrivance I haven't thought of yet.’
    • ‘And, as an added insult, the resolution relies upon a difficult-to-swallow contrivance.’
    • ‘A big part of it has to do with lame plot contrivances that slow the movie down rather than speeding it up.’
    • ‘Rachel's investigation is a follow-the-dots exercise in coincidence and contrivance, like a gothic version of bad Agatha Christie.’
    • ‘Lily and her younger, single sister, Judy, find themselves awkwardly back on equal footing, and, in the series' one contrivance, Lily's best friend, Naomi, also happens to be good friends with Karen.’
    • ‘It's so well done, in fact, that it takes you about 10 minutes to go blind to the whole contrivance.’
    • ‘Such tongue in cheek contrivances are, no doubt, designed to be appealing, yet they eventually serve to diminish the enjoyment of proceedings, and merely highlight the fact that the film is too long for its own good.’
    1. 2.1 A thing which is created skillfully and inventively to serve a particular purpose.
      ‘an assortment of electronic equipment and mechanical contrivances’
      • ‘His life seemed a contrivance, a bureaucratic invention.’
      • ‘It's a flimsy effort, but oddly, to me, so much more real than anything I've put on this here digital contrivance.’
      • ‘They work, they may even work admirably well, but there is no sense that these contrivances are the result of an omnipotent designer.’
      • ‘The journal worried that the ‘necessity for courage and strategy may be in some degree superseded by mechanical and chemical contrivances.’’
      • ‘All of them had various handy contrivances devised by their owner which saved toil.’
      • ‘Fox clearly believes that most of us would be better off with fewer mechanical contrivances in our lives, and she applauds and admires those who have gone cold turkey on technology.’
      • ‘The word ‘artillery’ at this time still referred to any mechanical contrivances and members of the group were primarily archers at first.’
      • ‘He held his breath a moment but nothing happened, so he then experimented with some of the contrivance's controls, discovering that one could cause portions of the wings and the tail to flap somewhat.’
      • ‘Indeed, the handshake has permeated our culture, our etiquette, our daily lives, to become perhaps our most important non-verbal communicative contrivance.’
      • ‘It seems a contrivance, a gimmick designed to get attention, which it does.’
      • ‘Radio stations need you glued to the seat long enough to hear about the latest contrivance you have to own or the drug you have to take or the movie you have to see.’
      • ‘The term 'robot' came into popular use after 1923 to delineate either mechanical contrivances so ingenious as to be almost human, or workers whom repetitive work was reducing to machines.’
      • ‘But possession breeds use as every apprentice office equipment salesman knows full well, and the contrivance that was unwanted yesterday becomes indispensable today.’
      • ‘His carefully-constructed contrivance was about to unravel.’
      • ‘A man who buys a television set thereby gives evidence to the effect that he thinks that the possession of this contrivance will increase his well-being and make him more content than he was without it.’
      • ‘They don't romanticize the instrument's folk origins or go in for New Age contrivances.’
      • ‘It was a bunch of people who got together to try to nut out a problem, or to think about a problem, and I think to say what they came up with is a contrivance merely to serve the interests of organ donation is unfair.’
      • ‘Where Paley compared the design of the eye with the design of the telescope, Darwin explained how such contrivances arose by natural selection, without the intervention of a divine contriver.’
      device, gadget, machine, appliance, contraption, apparatus, mechanism, implement, tool, labour-saving device, invention
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