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June 30, 2022

Contretemps / noun / con·tre·temps

The word "contretemps" is a French-based noun with a storied history. Today,                  "contretemps " means unpleasant situations, mishaps, and arguments. Contretemps' meaning has grown since its original introduction to the language. In the 16th century, we used "contretemps” as a fencing term used by professionals of the sport. Contretemps denoted misfortunes and embarrassing accidents in 1802. We started using "contretemps" as another way of talking about squabbles or arguments in 1961.

In a Sentence

The loud contretemps in the store parking lot caught the attention of the police in a nearby parking space.

The teenage siblings had constant contretemps that were driving their mother up the wall.

She decided the way to have a peaceful life was to avoid being involved in contretemps of any kind.


We first see "contretemps" used in fencing language to describe unfortunate accidents in the sport in the 16th century. Etymologists say we derived this French word by combining the French words contre- meaning ‘against' and temps, which means ‘time' to form the new term. The definition of contretemps has changed at least three times since its introduction into language. In the first sense, contretemps denote unfortunate or embarrassing fencing accidents. Second, we used contretemps as a ballet term in the early 17th century. The latest sense of the word is the most familiar and means to have an embarrassing or unexpected argument.


Argument, Squabble


Calm. Cool-headedness


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