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

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 The bill would also require that formula manufacturers have contingency plans for protecting against disruptions in supply in the event of a recall. Rebecca Kaplan, CBS News, 18 May 2022 Companies have been forced to respond with contingency plans in the shortage. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, 17 May 2022 Make this a single reference document that includes all safety protocols, contingency plans and emergency contact details for event organizers and local resources if applicable. Jennifer Best, Forbes, 16 May 2022 While the threat of conflict had been building, giving the team time to consider contingency plans, the sudden attack on Ukraine made the possibility of unveiling the installation in Venice, then less than two months away, seem impossible. Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNN, 22 Apr. 2022 Create training for team leaders, plan for budgetary expenditures and build contingency plans for major projects and initiatives. Gloria Horsley, Forbes, 18 Apr. 2022 As chief executive of VoxUkraine, Skubenko had already mapped out contingency plans to swap intelligence with the government, and knew his 25-person team could function without him. Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2022 The administration continued to explore all options and plan for every contingency. George Packer, The Atlantic, 31 Jan. 2022 The Biden administration is already working on contingency plans to prepare for the anticipated increase in border arrivals. Raul A. Reyes, CNN, 1 Apr. 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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near contingency



contingency coefficient

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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Contingency.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for contingency


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

More from Merriam-Webster on contingency

Nglish: Translation of contingency for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contingency for Arabic Speakers


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