early 14c., from Old French controver (Modern French controuver) "to find out, contrive, imagine," from Late Latin contropare "to compare" (via a figure of speech), from Latin com "with, together" (see com-) + tropus "song, musical mode," from Greek tropos "figure of speech" (from PIE root *trep- "to turn").
Sense evolution (in French) was from "invent with ingenuity" to "invent falsely." Spelled contreve until unexplained 15c. sound change that also affected briar, friar, choir. Related: Contrived; contriving.
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