a smart, contentious and capable person


New Member

I am wondering what is the exact meaning or "contentious" in the sentence below?

"Thank you for the kind words. It is a pleasure to work with a smart, contentious and capable person such as you."

This is a sentence from the email of my supervisor. Overall it should be saying something positive. But if I look at the word "contentious", it looks like it means "some people love me a lot but some people hate me so much" or "I always make people argue about some issues". For either meaning, it does not look like a compliment--actually my feeling is that it is a kind of negative personality.

Can you please explain this word in this context with some detailed examples--that is, what things or actions when a person do, people will think s/he is contentious as a positive comment?

Thank you!
  • Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    I suspect it’s an error for conscientious.

    Once someone told me that a certain person was "contentious" – or so it sounded to me. That seemed odd, since in my experience the person was always perfectly courteous. Then I realized that the word must have been "conscientious".

    The difference in pronunciation is probably greater in American English than in British English.
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