Contentious vs conscientious

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Contentious and conscientious are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often confused in usage. Two words or more than two words may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same way or pronounced differently or may be spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or have almost different meanings; they may be homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any other part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure for learning commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell and learn the definitions of words. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a confusable in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Confusables are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables contentious and conscientious, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Contentious describes a thing or a topic that will cause people to argue; something that is contentious sparks heated disagreement. The word contentious is derived from the Latin word, contentiosus, which means to quarrel. Related words are contentiously and contentiousness.

Conscientious describes someone who continually strives to do right, to live up to his or her duty, or to do a good job. Someone who is conscientious is scrupulous and has a strong conscience. The word conscientious is derived from the Latin word, conscientia, which means having a sense of what is morally right. Related words are conscientiously and conscientiousness.


During a meeting that featured contentious debate over how Saginaw can distribute its $52 million in American Rescue Plan Act stimulus money, the City Council established an advisory committee that could shape that spending. (Ann Arbor News)

Delimitation of constituencies is very contentious in nature and it is important to build a political and public consensus before the government seeks to go about the exercise. (Kashmir Observer)

People need to be conscientious about the size of their get-togethers, said Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC in Pittsburgh. (Courier Times)

This activity was made possible, primarily through the generosity of our conscientious members, in partnership with our sponsor Sagicor General Insurance coupled with the prudent and responsible management of our resources. (Dominica News)