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con·​tin·​gent kən-ˈtin-jənt How to pronounce contingent (audio)
: dependent on or conditioned by something else
Payment is contingent on fulfillment of certain conditions.
a plan contingent on the weather
: likely but not certain to happen : possible
: not logically necessary
especially : empirical
: happening by chance or unforeseen causes
: subject to chance or unseen effects : unpredictable
: intended for use in circumstances not completely foreseen
contingent funds
: not necessitated : determined by free choice
contingently adverb


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: a representative group : delegation, detachment
a diplomatic contingent
: something contingent (see contingent entry 1) : contingency
Choose the Right Synonym for contingent

accidental, fortuitous, casual, contingent mean not amenable to planning or prediction.

accidental stresses chance.

any resemblance to actual persons is entirely accidental

fortuitous so strongly suggests chance that it often connotes entire absence of cause.

a series of fortuitous events

casual stresses lack of real or apparent premeditation or intent.

a casual encounter with a stranger

contingent suggests possibility of happening but stresses uncertainty and dependence on other future events for existence or occurrence.

the contingent effects of the proposed law

Example Sentences

Adjective The isolation and co-optation of the capitalist classes in Germany meant that liberty as an ideal had no contingent link with capitalism, as had happened in Western Europe. Orlando Patterson, New Republic, 8 Nov. 1999 He knows that the throngs cheering for him today will be cheering for someone else tomorrow, that enthusiasm is fickle, that real support for someone like him always has something completely contingent about it. Andrew Sullivan, New Republic, 8 July 1996 Clearly the President was chastened by the sorrow and resentment of the people to whom he spoke, but his words were somehow tentative and contingent, as if they could be withdrawn on a month's notice. Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, July 1992 Every undogmatic historian is aware of the multitude of contingent events that entered into the victory of the Bolshevik revolution. Sidney Hook, Revolution, Reform & Social Justice, 1975 If the Sovereigns would grant him, contingent on his success, such rank, titles, and property that he and his issue could hold up their heads with the Spanish nobility, well and good … Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America, 1974 Noun Hollywood, Madison Avenue, the FCC, and a growing contingent in corporate America: It's hard to imagine a more formidable alliance pushing segregated television. Tamar Jacoby, New Republic, 24 Jan. 2000 A Maori contingent, unable to face the intensity of the Turkish fire, sought shelter in a nearby gully. Martin Gilbert, The First World War, 1994 But just because we banned it [DDT] domestically, under pressure from the bird-watching contingent … it doesn't necessarily follow that the rest of the world was about to jump on the bandwagon. T. Coraghessan Boyle, Harper's, April 1993 The group that makes up the largest contingent of voters in this area is the elderly. A contingent of reporters waited in front of the court for the defendant to appear. A British contingent was sent to assist the security forces. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Congress’s approval of the sale is contingent on Turkey’s acquiescence, administration officials said. Jared Malsin, WSJ, 13 Jan. 2023 Of course, that progress is contingent on keeping policies in place that limit those pesky ozone-depleting substances. Justine Calma, The Verge, 10 Jan. 2023 But expansion in Ohio has always been contingent on state interest. Susan Glaser, cleveland, 9 Jan. 2023 Luhrmann told Warners that his doing the movie was contingent on him finding the right person to play Elvis. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Jan. 2023 Her bonus also was contingent on results being canvassed by the board. Sasha Hupka, The Arizona Republic, 4 Jan. 2023 His power was contingent on belief, an all-or-nothing proposition that media coverage feebly reflected. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, New York Times, 28 Dec. 2022 That deal – which was contingent on acquiring nearby properties – fell through after two years. Sue Kiesewetter, The Enquirer, 22 Dec. 2022 After receiving the job offer, his hiring was contingent on passing a physical exam and a drug screening conducted by a third-party company, the Occupational Health Center, the EEOC said. Julia Marnin The Charlotte Observer (tns), al, 21 Dec. 2022
The arrangement was not welcomed by some of NorthPark’s future neighbors, a contingent of whom was not keen on the idea of a 93-acre shopping center with 7,000 parking spaces. Dallas News, 27 July 2022 Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh lead the best female actor contingent. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 11 Jan. 2023 Interest from California skyrocketed with the Golden State comprising the second-biggest contingent after Texas. Dallas News, 8 Jan. 2023 Payne, ever the activist, helped organize the city’s contingent for a March on Washington in 1941. Kovie Biakolo, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Jan. 2023 There has been a corresponding increase in the proportion of what are known as contingent faculty, who aren’t tenured or on a path to it — instructors, lecturers, teaching faculty who don’t do research and adjuncts — from 47% in 1987 to 67% in 2020. Daniel Golden, ProPublica, 3 Jan. 2023 Nance served as a photographer for the U.S. contingent of the North American delegation and created one of the most comprehensive photographic accounts of the month-long festival. Andy Saunders, Time, 21 Dec. 2022 The strike was closely watched by colleges and universities across the country as labor unrest among contingent faculty and graduate student employees has simmered. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, 17 Dec. 2022 On Tuesday, the wrestling contingent from Unalaska doubled. Chris Bieri, Anchorage Daily News, 16 Dec. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contingent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English, borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Medieval Latin contingent-, contingens "dependent on circumstances, occurring by chance," going back to Latin, present participle of contingere "to be in contact with, arrive at, affect, fall to one's lot, come about, happen," from con- con- + tangere "to touch, border on, arrive at, reach" — more at tangent entry 2


(sense 1) borrowed from French, "portion that falls to one as a return, part given or received in a common effort, body of troops contributed by an ally," noun derivative of contingent, adjective, "falling to someone as a share, dependent, contingent entry 1"; (sense 2) noun derivative of contingent entry 1

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1548, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of contingent was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near contingent

Cite this Entry

“Contingent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
con·​tin·​gent kən-ˈtin-jənt How to pronounce contingent (audio)
: depending on something else
plans contingent on the weather
contingently adverb


2 of 2 noun
: a number of persons representing or drawn from an area or group

Legal Definition


con·​tin·​gent kən-ˈtin-jənt How to pronounce contingent (audio)
: likely but not certain to happen compare executory
: intended for use in circumstances not completely foreseen
a contingent fund
: dependent on or conditioned by something else
a contingent claim
a legacy contingent on the marriage
compare vested

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