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 contrabandEdmund 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."

Examples of contraband in a Sentence

The border police searched the car for drugs and other contraband.
Recent Examples on the Web Chief Deputy Kimberly Epps told the state board Thursday that there had been also issues with staff bringing in contraband. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2024 The alleged contraband found in Paul’s bag was already on a plane linked to Combs, according to a law enforcement source. Devoun Cetoute, Miami Herald, 28 Mar. 2024 An action/thriller about a retiring commercial airline pilot who is blackmailed by his country’s intelligence service to carry contraband cargo. Liz Rothaus Betrand, Charlotte Observer, 27 Mar. 2024 In the first half of the 19th century, after much of the world had banned the transatlantic slave trade but before the end of slavery, a highly lucrative contraband trade continued to supply Brazil with enslaved Africans. Rafael Vilela, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2024 Over 1,000 criminal charges for the suspects include contraband introduction, drug trafficking and felons in possession of firearms, officials said. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, 30 Mar. 2024 But smugglers do not disguise their contraband just in produce. Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times, 25 Mar. 2024 Prisons also face threats of delivery of contraband into prison yards from drones. Walter Pavlo, Forbes, 28 Feb. 2024 There is also a huge influx of trafficked contraband, such as drugs and cell phones, into the prison system. Cara Tabachnick, CBS News, 28 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contraband.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near contraband

Cite this Entry

“Contraband.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contraband. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

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
Etymology

from Italian contrabbando "smuggling," from Latin contrabannum, literally, "against the decree or command," from contra "against" and bannum, bannus "decree"; of Germanic origin

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
Etymology

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!