Definition of contretemps in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrətäN/

noun (plural same /-ˌtäN(z)/ /-ˈtäN(z)/ )

1An unexpected and unfortunate occurrence: the hotel had to deal with more than one contretemps before the end of the night
More example sentences
  • 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.
1.1A minor dispute or disagreement: she had occasional contretemps with her staff
More example sentences
  • Then you find yourself in the midst of a minor contretemps, and everyone gets more readers.
  • ‘Apart from a little contretemps with the lighting backstage and a couple of cases of hay fever, there were no major problems,’ Nicholas relates.
  • I frankly like the guy, after our little contretemps.


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'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: con·tre·temps

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