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

Example Sentences

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 On a call with investors and analysts to discuss the latest results, Mr. Krakowsky said the majority of IPG clients are requesting some form of contingency planning in the event of a downturn. Katie Deighton, WSJ, 21 Oct. 2022 The original Hitler Wears Hermes came out as a contingency plan in 2012. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 31 Oct. 2022 The 2007 guidelines and an overlapping drought contingency plan approved in 2019 were meant to give states more certainty in their water supply. The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Oct. 2022 The zoo's contingency plan for storm preparedness paves the way for every animal at the park to have a safe place to go, Massaro said. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 28 Sep. 2022 The district has not been proactive nor attempted to create a contingency plan. Renata Cló, The Arizona Republic, 14 Sep. 2022 In 2019, its board rejected a drought contingency plan signed by other water users in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Kathleen Ronayne,, 13 Sep. 2022 Because the queen died at her Balmoral estate in Scotland, a contingency plan dubbed Operation Unicorn has kicked into gear. Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY, 9 Sep. 2022 This appears to be part of a contingency plan in the event of Morgoth’s defeat, a plan that Galadriel fears Sauron himself might be the one to enact. Ethan Shanfeld, Variety, 8 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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 8 Dec. 2022.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on contingency

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