con·​tra·​band | \ ˈkän-trə-ˌband How to pronounce contraband (audio) \

Definition of contraband

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 : a slave who during the American Civil War escaped to or was brought within the Union lines

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Other Words from contraband

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

Shelton was additionally charged with possession of a firearm and possessing contraband in prison, according to a superseding indictment. Doha Madani, NBC News, "Son of alleged mobster charged in McDonald's drive-thru hit on father," 18 June 2019 Hudson had pleaded guilty to possessing contraband in prison., "Inmate sentenced for having mom smuggle drugs into prison inside potato chips bag during visit at Sheridan," 14 June 2019 The Attorney General raises the same hackneyed and losing arguments in each case involving contraband in jails or prisons,’’ the judges wrote. Don Thompson,, "California court says prison pot is OK — if inmates don’t inhale," 13 June 2019 Teams of lawmen launched a predawn operation at a west Alabama prison in the ongoing effort to crackdown on contraband in state lockups. Carol Robinson |,, "Alabama prison sweep turns up makeshift weapons, drugs, contraband cell phones," 12 June 2019 And human rights activists in Mexico have long decried the prospect of a U.S.-style militarization of the mostly unguarded 600-mile frontier with Guatemala, long a haven for migrant smugglers and the movement of contraband., "Mexico dodged tariffs but still could face major costs under new U.S. deal," 8 June 2019 Adams has convictions for possession of cocaine, attempt to distribute cocaine, possession of contraband in the correctional center and possession of marijuana. Michelle Hunter,, "Suspect booked with killing 1 person, wounding 2 and shooting dog: JPSO," 7 June 2019 And yet this seemingly unremarkable wrap could be another valuable piece of contraband. National Geographic, "A rare antelope is being killed to make $20,000 scarves," 24 Apr. 2019 Arrington was arrested on suspicion of transportation of a narcotic drug for sale and promoting prison contraband. Serena O'sullivan, azcentral, "Yavapai County Sheriff: 2 men arrested, juvenile detained in fentanyl pills investigation," 6 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of contraband

circa 1529, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for contraband

Italian contrabbando, from Medieval Latin contrabannum, from contra- + bannus, bannum decree, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German bannan to command — more at ban

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Statistics for contraband

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for contraband

The first known use of contraband was circa 1529

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More Definitions for contraband



English Language Learners Definition of contraband

: things that are brought into or out of a country illegally


con·​tra·​band | \ ˈkän-trə-ˌband How to pronounce contraband (audio) \

Kids Definition of contraband

: goods forbidden by law to be owned or to be brought into or out of a country


con·​tra·​band | \ ˈkän-trə-ˌband How to pronounce contraband (audio) \

Legal Definition of contraband

: 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on contraband

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with contraband

Spanish Central: Translation of contraband

Nglish: Translation of contraband for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contraband for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about contraband

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