contraband

noun

con·​tra·​band ˈkän-trə-ˌband How to pronounce contraband (audio)
1
: illegal or prohibited traffic in goods : smuggling
… persons the most bound in duty to prevent contraband Edmund Burke
2
: goods or merchandise whose importation, exportation, or possession is forbidden
Border police searched the car for drugs and other contraband.
also : smuggled goods
3
plural contrabands : an enslaved person who during the American Civil War escaped to or was brought within the Union lines
contraband adjective

Did you know?

Contraband first appeared in English in the early 1500s as a borrowing of Italian contrabbando. This Italian word can be traced to the Medieval Latin word contrabannum, a combination of contra- ("against") and bannum ("decree"). Bannum is Germanic in origin and is related to Old High German bannan ("to command"). Bannan is also related to Middle English bannen ("to summon or to curse"), the source of the English verb ban, which now means "to prohibit" but which once also meant "to curse."

Example Sentences

The border police searched the car for drugs and other contraband.
Recent Examples on the Web The officer smelled the odor of marijuana in the vehicle and conducted a search for contraband. cleveland, 15 Nov. 2022 During the long, long months when Russian forces were in charge, the national flag was contraband. Hanna Arhirova, ajc, 13 Nov. 2022 During the long, long months when Russian forces were in charge, the national flag was contraband. Hanna Arhirova, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 Nov. 2022 According to police, Laveris Swanagan, 19, who was arrested on a felony robbery charge in April, was being searched for contraband around 5 p.m. Saturday at the Lake County Community Corrections Kimbrough Work Program. Staff Report, Chicago Tribune, 13 Nov. 2022 Pitts was arrested and charged Monday with recklessly assault in a detention facility with serious injury, first-degree assault intentionally cause injury to an officer, resisting arrest, promoting prison contraband and other offenses. Fox News, 8 Sep. 2022 Cottingham, who is Black, can be heard shouting at the officer, Sean Lojacono, who released him after finding no contraband. Washington Post, 23 Nov. 2020 After subduing that prisoner and calling an ambulance for the man who was stabbed, prison officials went to the cell of the alleged prisoner assailant to search for contraband, Bush said. Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, 19 Oct. 2022 He is accused of having a history of accessing contraband phones — and is facing charges for allegedly using one of them to order a shooting in Atlanta. María Luisa Paúl, Washington Post, 13 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from Middle French & Italian; Middle French contrebande, borrowed from Italian contrabando (later contrabbando), originally Upper Italian (Venetian) chontrabando (Medieval Latin of Venice contrabannum), from contra- contra- + bando "proclamation, edict, law," borrowed from Gothic bandwo "sign, signal" — more at band entry 3

First Known Use

circa 1540, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of contraband was circa 1540

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Dictionary Entries Near contraband

Cite this Entry

“Contraband.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contraband. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

contraband

noun

con·​tra·​band ˈkän-trə-ˌband How to pronounce contraband (audio)
1
: goods forbidden by law to be owned or to be brought into or out of a country
2
: smuggled goods
contraband adjective

Legal Definition

contraband

noun

con·​tra·​band ˈkän-trə-ˌband How to pronounce contraband (audio)
: property that is unlawfully produced, possessed, or transported
contraband per se
: property that is in and of itself unlawful to possess, produce, or transport
derivative contraband
: property that is unlawful because it is used in committing an unlawful act

History and Etymology for contraband

Italian contrabbando act of smuggling, from contra- against + bando edict, law

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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