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Borrowed from French contretemps.



contretemps (plural contretemps)

  1. An unforeseen, inopportune, or embarrassing event; a hitch
  2. (fencing) An ill-timed pass.


  • 1896 - Bret Harte, The Indiscretion of Elsbeth
    "I see that you are a born American citizen--and an earlier knowledge of that fact would have prevented this little contretemps. You are aware, Mr. Hoffman, that your name is German?"
  • 1934 - Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pirates of Venus, chapter 12
    What a strange contretemps! Its suddenness left me temporarily speechless; the embarrassment of Duare was only too obvious. Yet it was that unusual paradox, a happy contretemps--for me at least.
  • 1960 - "Emily Post Is Dead Here at 86; Writer was Arbiter of Etiquette", New York Times, September 27
    Mrs. Post was the center of a notable contretemps when she spilled a spoonful of berries at a dinner of the Gourmet Society here in 1938.
  • 2004 - Sunday Oregonian, June 13
    It won't rank with the doping scandals in track and field and baseball's steroid controversy but the Rose Cup race had its own little contretemps last year.

Plural Usage

  • 1991, Rebecca Goldstein, The Dark Sister, Penguin Books, 1993, p.37:
    The small flap over the pronunciation of her name was but the first, and the least, of the contretemps of the succeeding session.





From contre- +‎ temps, by calque of Italian contrattempo.



contretemps m (plural contretemps)

  1. a contretemps, a hitch, a hold-up, a setback

Further reading[edit]