con·​tin·​gen·​cy kən-ˈtin-jən(t)-sē How to pronounce contingency (audio)
plural contingencies
: a contingent event or condition: such as
: an event (such as an emergency) that may but is not certain to occur
trying to provide for every contingency
: something liable to happen as an adjunct to or result of something else
the contingencies of war
: the quality or state of being contingent
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
Recent Examples on the Web While evolution by natural selection plays a critical role, historical contingency also leaves its imprint, establishing features that may be suboptimal or even maladaptive. Adrian Woolfson, WSJ, 23 Nov. 2023 Having a sale contingency often makes buyers less attractive, says Hoagland. Kristine Gill, Better Homes & Gardens, 12 Nov. 2023 But one purpose of diplomacy is to probe intentions and spur the consideration of a wider range of options in a contingency. Steven Simon, Foreign Affairs, 18 Oct. 2023 Reyes Construction’s bid was $1.35 million and the Port issued a contingency of $203,000. Tammy Murga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Oct. 2023 Peso Pluma’s subject matter may be a little rough for the average Grammy voter, but the sheer force of his quick rise to popularity could be irresistible if the Latin music contingency of the Academy votes in force. Chris Willman, Variety, 12 Oct. 2023 Entanglement naturally spreads through a group of particles, establishing an intricate web of contingencies. Charlie Wood, Quanta Magazine, 11 Sep. 2023 The company’s financial documents even stipulate a kind of exit contingency for when AI wipes away our whole economic system. Steven Levy, WIRED, 5 Sep. 2023 Through all the contingency planning, through all the hypothetical scenarios, one fact that has been lurking in the background as the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to radically alter, if not cancel, the college football season in 2020. Fox News, 28 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contingency.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


conting(ence) + -ency

First Known Use

1561, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of contingency was in 1561

Dictionary Entries Near contingency

Cite this Entry

“Contingency.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​tin·​gen·​cy kən-ˈtin-jən-sē How to pronounce contingency (audio)
plural contingencies
: something (as an emergency) that might or might not happen or that might happen if something else occurs
prepared for every contingency

Legal Definition


con·​tin·​gen·​cy kən-ˈtin-jən-sē How to pronounce contingency (audio)
plural contingencies
: the quality or state of being contingent
: a contingent event or condition: as
: an event that may but is not certain to occur
a contingency that made performance under the contract impossible
: 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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