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

But like most complex, improvised projects, New Orleans actually came together over many years, and each stage involved various levels of indecision, contingency, discord and serendipity. Richard Campanella,, "How New Orleans was founded in 1718: Indecision, contingency, discord and serendipity," 10 Jan. 2018 The new budget includes a $1 million contingency to cover any reductions in state aid. Bill Leukhardt, Courant Community, "No Tax Hike In Southington Next Fiscal Year," 31 May 2018 The Duluth City Council voted recently to approve a contract with Classic Air, the lowest of three bidders, for $44,345 with an additional 10 percent contingency of $4,435 for a total of $48,780. Karen Huppertz, ajc, "Duluth will spend $48K to replace leaking HVAC at City Hall," 29 May 2018 As a contingency, Rainey said the Sewerage & Water Board has enough stored water to shut down the Algiers plant, if needed, and supply West Bank utility customers with 12 hours-worth of water as the oil sheen passes. Beau Evans,, "Mississippi River diesel spill has not contaminated New Orleans' drinking water, S&WB says," 12 Apr. 2018 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked with youth contingencies from their districts; the DNC sent its top brass; and organizations such as the National Council of Negro Women handed out water and snacks., "Black Youth Made Their Presence Felt At The 'March For Our Lives' Rally," 24 Mar. 2018 The balance of the price would be for contingencies and incidentals. Hillary Davis,, "Newport council to consider crosswalk and Peninsula Park projects," 23 Mar. 2018 Team News Leicester could have a full contingency available for the game., "Leicester vs Bournemouth Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Team News, Prediction & More," 2 Mar. 2018 The city agreed to pay $55,270 for the carpet and materials, $12,390 for labor, plus a $5,000 contingency and $440 in fees. Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star, "Carmel pays $73,000 for custom carpet at City Hall as part of $681,283 renovation," 14 Feb. 2018

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

9 May 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

What made you want to look up contingency? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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