1 of 3


con·​tract ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
: a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties
especially : one legally enforceable
If he breaks the contract, he'll be sued.
: a business arrangement for the supply of goods or services at a fixed price
make parts on contract
: the act of marriage or an agreement to marry
: a document describing the terms of a contract
Have you signed the contract yet?
: the final bid to win a specified number of tricks in bridge
: an order or arrangement for a hired assassin to kill someone
His enemies put out a contract on him.


2 of 3


transitive verb sense 2a and intransitive verb sense 1 usually
ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
other senses usually
kən-ˈtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
contracted; contracting; contracts

transitive verb

: to bring on oneself especially inadvertently : incur
contracting debts
: to become affected with
contract pneumonia
: to establish or undertake by contract
contract a job
: betroth
also : to establish (a marriage) formally
: to hire by contract
contract a lawyer
: to purchase (goods, services, etc.) on a contract basis
often used with out
: limit, restrict
contract the scope of their activities
: knit, wrinkle
A frown contracted his brow.
: to draw together : concentrate
He contracted his armies into one force
: to reduce to smaller size by or as if by squeezing or forcing together
contract a muscle
: to shorten (a word) by omitting one or more sounds or letters
Contract "forecastle" to "fo'c'sle."

intransitive verb

: to make a contract
The builder contracted with them to build a deck.
: to draw together so as to become diminished in size
Metal contracts on cooling.
also : to become less in compass, duration, or length
Muscle contracts in tetanus.
contractibility noun
kən-ˈtrak-tə-bəl How to pronounce contract (audio)


3 of 3


: hired to execute a contract (see contract entry 1 sense 1a)
a contract worker
a contract killer
Choose the Right Synonym for contract

contract, shrink, condense, compress, constrict, deflate mean to decrease in bulk or volume.

contract applies to a drawing together of surfaces or particles or a reduction of area or length.

caused her muscles to contract

shrink implies a contracting or a loss of material and stresses a falling short of original dimensions.

the sweater will shrink when washed

condense implies a reducing of something homogeneous to greater compactness without significant loss of content.

condense the essay into a paragraph

compress implies a pressing into a small compass and definite shape usually against resistance.

compressed cotton into bales

constrict implies a tightening that reduces diameter.

the throat is constricted by a tight collar

deflate implies a contracting by reducing the internal pressure of contained air or gas.

deflate the balloon

Examples of contract in a Sentence

Noun The contract requires him to finish work by the end of the year. I tore up the contract. Have you signed the contract yet? Verb She contracted her lips into a frown. The muscle expands and then contracts. The hot metal contracted as it cooled. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Hired in 2018 to replace Rich Cho, Kupchak helped restore things financially initially with the Hornets cap sheet in shambles due to the hefty contracts of Nic Batum, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo. Roderick Boone, Charlotte Observer, 12 Feb. 2024 Tindall, who turns 24 in March, is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract. Daniel Oyefusi, Miami Herald, 12 Feb. 2024 In an interview with United Press International, Pake explained how Reba’s first contract wasn’t only a launching pad for her music career but for his and Susie’s as well. Emily Weaver, Peoplemag, 12 Feb. 2024 The latest contract, signed by both parties in September 2019, is effective through May 2026, but is not publicly available. Megan Cerullo, CBS News, 11 Feb. 2024 Based on the non-compliance of the jail standards, the commissioners should have leverage to end the contract with the private jail in Garza County. Noah Alcala Bach, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9 Feb. 2024 Defensive star: Nick Bosa Defensive end Nick Bosa held out for a big contract, was rewarded with a $170 million deal, and has been money for the 49ers down the stretch. Joseph Dycus, The Mercury News, 9 Feb. 2024 The development contracts were quietly signed by the previous oversight board the day before the state legislature passed a bill at DeSantis’ direction giving him control of the district. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Jan. 2024 Yong Prince plans to retire and has a contract to sell her motel at the end of next month. Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, 31 Jan. 2024
For the third quarter of 2023, Paramount Global’s revenue rose 3% thanks to its growth in its streaming and film businesses — but revenue in its largest division, linear TV, fell 8% as sales of traditional television advertising continued to contract (declining 14% in the quarter). Todd Spangler, Variety, 13 Feb. 2024 Key Facts The man, who was from Alaska’s remote Kenai Peninsula, is one of only seven people known to have contracted Alaskapox virus since its discovery in a patient in Fairbanks in 2015. Robert Hart, Forbes, 12 Feb. 2024 Buchanan said the district has contracted with Learning Associates to conduct the search for his replacement. Isha Trivedi, The Mercury News, 11 Feb. 2024 Alzheimer's disease transmitted by medical procedure Some patients who had a certain medical procedure decades ago were found to contract Alzheimer’s disease later in life, researchers from University of College London discovered. Melissa Rudy, Fox News, 4 Feb. 2024 Caretakers of those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and the like face absolutely no risk of contracting the conditions, experts emphasize. Erin Prater, Fortune Well, 1 Feb. 2024 Phillips told the Statesman that Fish and Game is already using all of its potential tools to control wolf populations, including contracting with the Fish and Wildlife Service to kill wolves that prey on livestock. Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman, 31 Jan. 2024 But other analysts are skeptical, both of the offer, and of the potential to turn around a contracting linear TV business. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Jan. 2024 To date, not a single person has been known to contract the disease from a mosquito within the United States. Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian, Kansas City Star, 30 Jan. 2024
David Pastrnak celebrated a mega-contract signing with a goal and assist, and Dmitry Orlov offered something of a Pastrnak impression in his home debut as the Bruins routed the Buffalo Sabres, 7-1, on Thursday night. Frank Dell'apa,, 2 Mar. 2023 FC Barcelona have reached a pre-contract agreement with Sevilla's Jules Kounde. Tom Sanderson, Forbes, 24 July 2022 According to multiple publications, Ball Corporation will now require that non-contract customers order no fewer than five truckloads (roughly one million cans) per each of their beverages starting on January 1. The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Dec. 2021 The company almost never loses workplace arbitrations, though it was hit with a $1 million award in May in a case brought by another ex-contract worker that was similar to Diaz’s. Fortune, 5 Oct. 2021 Throughout the pre-contract process, Pareja said Mueller maintained a professional attitude and a respect for his current club. Julia Poe,, 31 July 2021 Mueller was eyeing a potential midseason transfer to a Belgian team according to a report from the Athletic, but ultimately settled on the pre-contract process. Julia Poe,, 21 July 2021 That might sound like a lot of work to put in for a business that’s still only a potential client, but a few hours spent during the pre-contract process would have saved me six months of frustration in the long run. Christopher Tompkins, Forbes, 21 June 2021 Township trustees set aside a pool of up to $155,518 for the 2021 raises, which represents about 3.5% of the $5.4 million payroll for non-contract employees. Sue Kiesewetter, The Enquirer, 27 Mar. 2021 See More

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

Word History



Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin contractus, from contrahere to draw together, make a contract, reduce in size, from com- + trahere to draw


Middle English, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French contracter to agree upon, from Latin contractus — see contract entry 1


derivative of contract entry 1

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


1936, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near contract

Cite this Entry

“Contract.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
con·​tract ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
: a legally binding agreement between two or more parties
: a document stating the terms of a contract


2 of 2 verb
con·​tract kən-ˈtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
sense 2 usually
ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
: to bring on oneself
contract debts
: to become affected with
contract a cold
: to agree by contract
contract to build a house
: to draw or squeeze together so as to make or become smaller or shorter and broader
brows contracting in puzzlement
contract a muscle
: to make or become smaller
metal contracts when cold
: to shorten (a word) by leaving out one or more sounds or letters

Medical Definition


transitive verb
kən-ˈtrakt also ˈkän-ˌtrakt
: to become affected with
contract pneumonia
: to reduce to smaller size by or as if by squeezing or drawing together
treatment … inhibits spindle formation and contracts chromosomesErnst Mayr
of a muscle or muscle fiber : to cause to undergo contraction
especially : to cause to shorten and thicken

intransitive verb

: to draw together so as to become diminished in size
of a muscle or muscle fiber : to undergo contraction
especially : to shorten and thicken
contractibility noun
plural contractibilities
contractible adjective

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
con·​tract ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
: an agreement between two or more parties that creates in each party a duty to do or not do something and a right to performance of the other's duty or a remedy for the breach of the other's duty
also : a document embodying such an agreement see also accept, bargain entry 2, breach, cause sense 4, consent, consideration, duty, meeting of the minds, obligation, offer, performance, promise, rescind, social contract, subcontract, Uniform Commercial Code

Note: Contracts must be made by parties with the necessary capacity (as age or mental soundness) and must have a lawful, not criminal, object. Except in Louisiana, a valid contract also requires consideration, mutuality of obligations, and a meeting of the minds. In Louisiana, a valid contract requires the consent of the parties and a cause for the contract in addition to capacity and a lawful object.

accessory contract
: a contract (as a security agreement) made to secure the performance of another obligation compare principal contract in this entry
adhesion contract \ ad-​ˈhē-​zhən-​ \
: contract of adhesion in this entry
aleatory contract
: a contract in which either party's performance is dependent on an uncertain event
bilateral contract
: a contract in which both parties have promised to perform compare unilateral contract in this entry
commutative contract
in the civil law of Louisiana : a contract in which the obligations of the parties to perform are equal to each other in value
constructive contract
: quasi contract in this entry
contract for deed
: land installment contract in this entry
contract implied in fact
: implied contract in this entry
contract implied in law
: quasi contract in this entry
contract of adhesion
: a contract that is not negotiated by the parties and that is usually embodied in a standardized form prepared by the dominant party
contract under seal
: a contract that does not require consideration in order to be binding but that must be sealed, delivered, and show a clear intention of the parties to create a contract under seal

Note: Contracts under seal were in use long prior to the development of the requirement of consideration. They originally usually were impressed with an actual seal, but today the word seal, the abbreviation L.S., or words such as “signed and sealed” or “witness my seal” may take the place of the seal. Without a clear indication of the parties' intention, however, the presence of a seal, such as a corporate seal, is insufficient to create a contract under seal. Contracts under seal have a substantially longer statute of limitations than contracts based on consideration.

destination contract
: a contract for goods stipulating that the seller assumes the risk of loss from damage to the goods until they arrive at the destination specified in the contract compare shipment contract in this entry
dual contract
: one of two contracts made by the same parties with regard to the same transaction
specifically : one of two contracts made with regard to the sale of real estate of which one states an inaccurately high price for the purpose of defrauding a lender into providing a larger loan
executory contract
: a contract that sets forth promises that are not yet performed
express contract
: a contract created by the explicit language of the parties compare implied contract in this entry
formal contract
: a contract made binding by the observance of required formalities regardless of the giving of consideration
specifically : a contract that is a contract under seal, a recognizance, a letter of credit, or a negotiable instrument

called also special contract, specialty

forward contract
: a privately negotiated investment contract in which a buyer commits to purchase something (as a quantity of a commodity, security, or currency) at a predetermined price on a set future date

called also forward

futures contract
: a contract purchased or sold on an exchange in which a party agrees to buy or sell a quantity of a commodity on a specified future date at a set price : future

called also future contract

gratuitous contract
in the civil law of Louisiana : a contract in which one party promises to do something without receiving anything in return compare onerous contract in this entry
guaranteed investment contract
: an investment contract under which an institutional investor deposits a lump sum of money (as a pension fund) with an insurance company that guarantees the return of principal and a specific amount of interest at the end of the contract term
also : such a contract considered as an investment
purchased a guaranteed investment contract

called also GIC

illusory contract \ i-​ˈlü-​sə-​rē-​, -​zə-​ \
: a contract in which at least one party makes an illusory promise
implied contract
: a contract that a court infers to exist from the words and conduct of the parties

called also contract implied in fact, implied in fact contract

compare express contract in this entry
: quasi contract in this entry
implied in law contract
: quasi contract in this entry
informal contract
: any contract that is not a formal contract

called also simple contract

innominate contract
in the civil law of Louisiana : a contract that is given no special designation as to its purpose compare nominate contract in this entry
installment contract
: a contract in which performance is tendered in installments (as by separate periodic delivery of goods)
investment contract
: an agreement or transaction in which a party invests money in a common enterprise the profits from which are derived from the efforts of others
labor contract
: a contract between an employer and a labor union reached through and containing the results of collective bargaining : collective bargaining agreement
land installment contract
: a contract for the purchase of real property in which the seller retains the deed to the property or otherwise continues to have an interest in it until the buyer makes payments in installments equal to the full purchase price or as much of the purchase price as agreed upon

called also contract for deed, land contract

maritime contract
: a contract directly relating to the navigation, business, or commerce of the high seas or other navigable waters and falling within the jurisdiction of the admiralty court
nominate contract
in the civil law of Louisiana : a contract given a special designation (as sale, insurance, or lease) compare innominate contract in this entry
onerous contract
in the civil law of Louisiana : a contract in which each party obligates himself or herself in exchange for the promise of the other compare gratuitous contract in this entry
option contract
: a contract in which a time period is specified within which an offer must be accepted
output contract
: a contract in which the buyer agrees to buy and the seller agrees to sell all of a kind of goods that the seller produces
principal contract
: a contract from which a secured obligation arises compare accessory contract in this entry
quasi contract
: an obligation that is not created by a contract but that is imposed by law to prevent the unjust enrichment of one party from the acts of another party

called also contract implied in law, implied in law contract

in the civil law of Louisiana : a lawful and voluntary act that benefits another for which the law imposes an obligation on the beneficiary or a third party to compensate the actor compare offense sense 2
requirements contract
: a contract in which the seller agrees to sell and the buyer agrees to buy all of a kind of goods that the buyer requires
shipment contract
: a contract in which the seller bears the risk of loss from damage to the goods only until they are brought to the place of shipment compare destination contract in this entry
simple contract
: informal contract in this entry
special contract
: a contract containing provisions and stipulations not ordinarily found in contracts of its kind
: formal contract in this entry
substituted contract
: a contract between parties to a prior contract that takes the place of and discharges the obligations under the prior contract compare accord sense 3, novation
synallagmatic contract
in the civil law of Louisiana : bilateral contract in this entry
unilateral contract
: a contract in which only one party is obligated to perform compare bilateral contract in this entry
yellow-dog contract
: an illegal employment contract in which a worker disavows membership in and agrees not to join a labor union in order to get a job
: an insurance policy
: the study of the law regarding contracts
usually used in pl.


2 of 2 transitive verb
: to undertake or establish by a contract
: to purchase (as goods or services) on a contract basis
often used with out

intransitive verb

: to make a contract


Latin contractus from contrahere to draw together, enter into (a relationship or agreement), from com- with, together + trahere to draw

More from Merriam-Webster on contract

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