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 Mulcahy noted that the cost estimate of $469,684 includes about $70,000 of contingency money that may not have to be spent on the project. Ed Wittenberg, cleveland, "It’s official: Recreational trails to be constructed on Orangewood Drive," 8 Apr. 2021 Also experimenting with guys who played RB in high school but haven’t in a while, more contingency than anything. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "What Mario Cristobal said after Oregon’s third spring practice," 7 Apr. 2021 And during Thursday’s meeting, ahead of the vote, staffers from the school system and the Alexandria Health Department walked the school board through every contingency and detail of the CDC’s revised three-foot guidance. Washington Post, "In reversal, Alexandria schools will adopt three feet of distance inside classrooms," 6 Apr. 2021 The most important lesson that the study of history teaches us is contingency. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "The Christian Invention of the Human Person," 4 Apr. 2021 Energy demand spiked on Aug. 14 and 15, and the system operator, known as the CAISO for short, was unable to maintain a 6 percent minimum in contingency reserves. Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Utilities commission OKs SDG&E submission for additional power this summer," 23 Mar. 2021 Under that scenario, the committee would develop a contingency bracket for Kentucky winning the SEC's automatic bid and stealing a spot from another at-large team just hours before the selection show. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Selection committee chair Mitch Barnhart focused on NCAA Tournament but rooting for UK," 11 Mar. 2021 Despite meticulous training and contingency plans for a host of scenarios from terrorist attacks to biohazards, the Capitol Police seemed unprepared when the threat arrived in the form of mostly white men carrying American flags. W.j. Hennigan, Time, "Who Planted Pipe Bombs in D.C.? Feds Hope New Video Leads To Tips," 10 Mar. 2021 Knowledge of the past, especially the ancient past, always rests on fragments, shaped powerfully by contingency. Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, "Is a Long-Dismissed Forgery Actually the Oldest Known Biblical Manuscript?," 10 Mar. 2021

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

17 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contingency.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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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 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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