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

Like other plaintiffs' lawyers who work on contingency, Avenatti lives on a boom-and-bust pay cycle. Michael Finnegan,, "Law firm of Stormy Daniels' attorney hit with $10-million judgment," 22 May 2018 The potential for Arizona teachers to launch a first-ever statewide strike has school districts, parents and education officials making contingency plans despite a lack of clarity about what may happen and when. Jaimy Jones, Houston Chronicle, "Pasadena ISD OKs pay raise for teachers," 7 July 2018 Those closest to the market are less fazed by this contingency, however, knowing that Beijing mostly turned off that tap well over a year ago. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, "Will Hollywood Get Caught in Trump's China Trade War Crossfire?," 13 July 2018 The Pentagon reportedly is assessing the costs of reducing or redeploying U.S. troops stationed in Germany — who are there not simply to defend Europe but to position the United States for military contingencies in Africa and the Middle East. James Goldgeier, Washington Post, "President Trump goes to Europe this week. Its leaders are bracing for the impact.," 9 July 2018 Principal — whose customers include automotive suppliers and other major companies in the United States and abroad — accounts for contingencies like unexpected price swings in its contracts. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, "Tariffs? Time for a Plan B: ‘Gobble Up Every Bit of Material That I Can’," 5 July 2018 Too much evidence has been gathered, and too many prosecutors, who have surely considered and planned for the contingency, stand ready to carry on. Paul Thornton,, "Why Mueller will remain Trump's menace," 19 May 2018 The total expenditure of $364,065 includes about $16,773 for contingencies. David Ibata, ajc, "Woodstock OKs $347K contract for street paving," 3 May 2018 The Fallston project, which cost about $14 million and was done a few summers ago, went well, Brown said, and was on time, on schedule and money was left over at the end for contingencies. Erika Butler, The Aegis, "Failing C. Milton Wright elevator to be replaced by next school year," 15 Mar. 2018

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

see contingent entry 1

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Phrases Related to contingency

contingency fund

contingency plan

Statistics for contingency

Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contingency

The first known use of contingency was in 1561

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More Definitions for contingency



English Language Learners Definition of contingency

: something (such as an emergency) that might happen


con·tin·gen·cy | \kən-ˈtin-jən-sē \
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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