Word of The Day for Saturday, April 16, 2011


con•tre•temps (KON-truh-tahn)  n

1. an awkward or difficult situation or mishap; an inopportune occurrence; an embarrassing mischance
2. a small disagreement that is rather embarrassing
3. (Fencing) a feint made with the purpose of producing a counterthrust from one's opponent
1680s, "a blunder in fencing," from Fr. contre-temps "motion out of time, unfortunate accident, bad times;" from L. contra + tempus; as a ballet term, from 1706; as "an unfortunate accident," 1802; as "a dispute," from 1961

Synonyms: disaster, embarrassment, misadventure, misfortune, mishap, predicament

Sentence Examples:
• The secretiveness in connection with reverses and contretemps which prevailed at that time, and which continued to prevail during the first year and a half of the war—during the very period when I had certain responsibilities in connection with such matters myself—seemed to me then, and seems to me now, to have been a mistake. -Dug-out, Charles Edward Callwell

• "Say no more," I begged. "I understand. I shall ask for the time-table, shake hands, thank you for a most delightful visit, and express my regrets that any little contretemps should have arisen to hasten my departure." -Punch, or the London Charivari

• The groom was in the utmost alarm, both on his own account and on mine, but, in spite of this, so irresistibly had the sense of the ludicrous in this unhappy contretemps taken possession of his fancy, that he sang out a long, loud, and canorous peal of laughter, that might have wakened the Seven Sleepers. -Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas De Quincey

Sources: Free Dictionary, Online Etymology

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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