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

Many contingency plans were triggered before March 29th, when Brexit was supposed to have happened. The Economist, "London’s reign as the world’s capital of capital is at risk," 29 June 2019 The ongoing legal battle — and the prospect of millions of Americans losing health care coverage — has prompted other states to come up with contingency plans, as Texas has done. Allie Morris,, "As Texas leads charge against Obamacare, state leaders work on backup plans," 28 June 2019 If not, their contingency plans become a fascinating subplot. Jeremy Woo,, "One Burning Question for Every Team in NBA Free Agency," 27 June 2019 In Paris, volunteers distributed water to homeless people after the French government closed schools and activated a contingency plan to protect residents. William Walsh, Fortune, "Europe's Scorching Heatwave Forces Germany to Impose Autobahn Speed Limits," 26 June 2019 With that threat fading, world leaders now have to make contingency plans. Peter Baker, New York Times, "When Trump Meets With World Leaders, He Won’t Be the Only One Thinking About 2020," 25 June 2019 While recovery operations remain in place in many areas impacted by previous disasters, FEMA has put in contingency plans to redirect staff to other areas should they be needed to deal with life-threatening events. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "Exclusive: Trump administration sets plans for 2019 hurricane season after 'wakeup' call of recent disasters," 21 June 2019 The Secretary for the Civil Service, Joshua Law, said that contingency plans were being put in place to enable civil servants to work elsewhere. Time Staff, Time, "Escalating Their Campaign Into a Push for Political Freedom, Protesters Return to Hong Kong's Streets," 21 June 2019 Financial planners typically craft their assumptions about what’s most likely to happen and may suggest insurance or contingency plans to cover the worst-case scenarios. Liz Weston |,, "Here’s what health care really will cost you in retirement," 8 June 2019

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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Statistics for contingency

Last Updated

4 Jul 2019

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 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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Comments on contingency

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