con·​tin·​gen·​cy | \ kən-ˈtin-jən(t)-sē How to pronounce contingency (audio) \
plural contingencies

Definition of contingency

1 : a contingent event or condition: such as
a : an event (such 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 the contingencies of war
2 : the quality or state of being contingent

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Choose the Right Synonym for contingency

juncture, exigency, emergency, contingency, pinch, strait (or 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 strait, now commonly 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

Examples of contingency in a Sentence

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 It is difficult to distinguish all the legitimate and illegitimate kinds and uses of information. Writing laws to regulate all contingencies is like trying to capture broth in a colander. — George F. Will, Newsweek, 2 Mar. 1987 Was it merely the expression of her displeasure at Miss Bart's neglect, or had disquieting rumours reached her? The latter contingency seemed improbable, yet Lily was not without a sense of uneasiness. — Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, 1905 In making our business plans, we tried to prepare for any contingency that might hurt sales. agencies trying to provide for every contingency in a national emergency
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Recent Examples on the Web Rangel also said the Rangers will prepare Joe Palumbo and Kolby Allard to start as contingency plans in case of an injury or a positive COVID-19 test for a pitcher. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "How the Rangers starting rotation used delayed negotiations to their advantage ahead of spring training part 2," 1 July 2020 Accordingly, the document listed prerequisites such as contingency plans for onboard outbreaks as well as testing and reporting cases. Morgan Hines, USA TODAY, "Face masks, COVID-19 screening: EU issues guidelines for return to cruising amid pandemic," 1 July 2020 That is why all these contingency plans are having to be thought about and looked at. Ben Thomas |, al, "Alabama, other states still face tough questions about 2020 high school football season," 1 July 2020 Hidalgo said hospitals have reached 100 percent of their base capacity and that relying on contingency plans is a gamble on human life. Rebecca Hennes, Houston Chronicle, "Harris County raises COVID-19 threat to most critical level, residents encouraged to stay home," 26 June 2020 However, an extensive contingency plan is in place to offer courses online should the need arise. Samuel Zwickel, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan university campuses plan to open in fall despite COVID-19. What we know," 26 June 2020 In April, Democrats decided to postpone the convention from July to August to allow for more time to make contingency plans if the coronavirus still prevented mass gatherings. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Democrats plan for smaller convention in Milwaukee," 24 June 2020 The news was better than expected but beyond the scope of the soccer team's contingency planning. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville City FC's stadium launch could attract a national audience," 24 June 2020 Also, contingency plans in the event that an opponent who doesn’t have a budget for testing has to cancel after COVID-19 rips through its locker room. John Canzano, oregonlive, "Canzano: College football on shaky ground amid pandemic and athletes returning to campus," 18 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contingency.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of contingency

1561, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for contingency

conting(ence) + -ency

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Time Traveler for contingency

Time Traveler

The first known use of contingency was in 1561

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Statistics for contingency

Last Updated

9 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contingency.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for contingency


How to pronounce contingency (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of contingency

: something (such as an emergency) that might happen


con·​tin·​gen·​cy | \ kən-ˈtin-jən-sē How to pronounce contingency (audio) \
plural contingencies

Legal Definition of contingency

1 : the quality or state of being contingent
2 : a contingent event or condition: as
a : an event that may but is not certain to occur a contingency that made performance under the contract impossible
b : something likely to come about as an adjunct to or result of something else specifically : contingency fee at fee 2 whether a case is on a contingency or billed at an hourly rate — D. R. Frederico

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