noun con·tin·gen·cy \kən-ˈtin-jən(t)-sē\

: something (such as an emergency) that might happen

plural con·tin·gen·cies

Full Definition of CONTINGENCY

:  the quality or state of being contingent
:  a contingent event or condition: as
a :  an event (as an emergency) that may but is not certain to occur <trying to provide for every contingency>
b :  something liable to happen as an adjunct to or result of something else


  1. In making our business plans, we tried to prepare for any contingency that might hurt sales.
  2. <agencies trying to provide for every contingency in a national emergency>
  3. Nothing was overlooked. There was a fallback position, a fail-safe provision, for any contingency. —Gary Wills, New York Times Review of Books, 1 Apr. 2001


(see 1contingent)
First Known Use: 1561

Synonym Discussion of CONTINGENCY

juncture, exigency, emergency, contingency, pinch, straits, crisis mean a critical or crucial time or state of affairs. juncture stresses the significant concurrence or convergence of events <an important juncture in our country's history>. exigency stresses the pressure of restrictions or urgency of demands created by a special situation <provide for exigencies>. emergency applies to a sudden unforeseen situation requiring prompt action to avoid disaster <the presence of mind needed to deal with emergencies>. contingency implies an emergency or exigency that is regarded as possible but uncertain of occurrence <contingency plans>. pinch implies urgency or pressure for action to a less intense degree than exigency or emergency <come through in a pinch>. straits applies to a troublesome situation from which escape is extremely difficult <in dire straits>. crisis applies to a juncture whose outcome will make a decisive difference <a crisis of confidence>.


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