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I am having trouble in figuring it out why there is a difference between their meaning as i think that the root "content" is shared by both the words content + ious ; content + ment where contentment means a sense of satisfaction and contentious is being argumentative - newbie (please correct me if i am wrong)

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  • Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. – Hot Licks Jan 28 '18 at 19:35
  • etymonline.com/word/contentious – Hot Licks Jan 28 '18 at 19:35
  • etymonline.com/word/contentment – Hot Licks Jan 28 '18 at 19:35
  • @HotLicks thank you :) . I checked etymology but i was not able to figure out the root of these two. i checked the above mentioned links and missbenison.com/2014/02/23/… this link states that these two words are different but the origin of these two must be from two different roots but looks like from the same root. so to differentiate among these two when a person have a hold on to one root is difficult. – Rishi Gupta Jan 28 '18 at 19:44
  • Read the references!! One word is related to the English verb "contend" and the other to adjective "content". – Hot Licks Jan 28 '18 at 21:33
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The similarity obscures the different etymologies.

Content, taken over exactly from Old French, ultimately comes from Latin contentus, "contained, satisfied," past participle of continere. Related words are contents (that which is contained) or incontinent (inability to contain urination).

Contentious, however, came through Middle French contentieux, from Latin contentiosus, "obstinate, quarrelsome," and finally contendere, "contend, dispute."

The two words have nothing to do with each other etymologically, as they derive from two different Latin verbs.

  • (+1) There is still the question of why Latin had disparate meanings for contentus and contentiosus. 'Contain' and 'contend' are English words. The question is what exactly did the Latin words mean and is the disparity an historical 'mistake' of misinterpreting the original Latin meaning. – Nigel J Jan 28 '18 at 20:27
  • Why should the difference between contentus and contentiosus be surprising or puzzling if they derive from different verbs? Contendere is also part of the American legal system. A plea of "no contest" sometimes retains its Latin name: nolo contendere. – KarlG Jan 28 '18 at 20:43
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The OED gives the following for 'contentious':

Etymology: < French contentieux < Latin contentiōsus given to contention, quarrelsome:

a. Of persons or their dispositions: Given to contention; prone to strife or dispute; quarrelsome.

1533 J. Frith Bk. answeringe Mores Let. sig. Oivv That you accept this worke with..no contencious harte. 1611 Bible (King James) Prov. xxi. 19 It is better to dwell in the wildernesse, then with a contentious and an angry woman.

The OED entry for 'contentment' is :

Etymology: < French contentement (late 16th cent. in Littré), < contenter to content v.:

a. The action of satisfying; the process of being satisfied; satisfaction. arch.

▸c1475 in Coll. Ordinances Royal Househ. (Harl. 642) (1790) 22 For the contentement of his household royal and creditors thereof. 1576 A. Fleming tr. Cicero in Panoplie Epist. 35 The Victor..must doe many thinges to the expectation and contentment of them, by whose helpe he obteined the victorie.


The words seem to have come straight into English from the French. 'Contentious' appears first as 'contencious' in 1533, but changes to 'contentious' in the 1611 Authorised Version of the bible.

And 'contentment' first appears in its French form 'contentement' in 1475.

I would say that the origin of the suffixes and their disparate meanings is a matter of the French etymology rather than any English manipulation.

  • @RishiGupta Lets wait for the community to demonstrate whether it is a correct response :) It is peer review that proves efficacy. – Nigel J Jan 28 '18 at 19:53
  • Let's wait for the community to decide whether it's general reference. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 28 '18 at 23:34

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