con·​tract | \ ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio) \

Definition of contract

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties especially : one legally enforceable If he breaks the contract, he'll be sued.
b : a business arrangement for the supply of goods or services at a fixed price make parts on contract
c : the act of marriage or an agreement to marry
2 : a document describing the terms of a contract Have you signed the contract yet?
3 : the final bid to win a specified number of tricks in bridge
4 : an order or arrangement for a hired assassin to kill someone His enemies put out a contract on him.


con·​tract | \ 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

Definition of contract (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to bring on oneself especially inadvertently : incur contracting debts
b : to become affected with contract pneumonia
2a : to establish or undertake by contract contract a job
b : betroth also : to establish (a marriage) formally
c(1) : to hire by contract contract a lawyer
(2) : to purchase (goods, services, etc.) on a contract basis often used with out
3a : limit, restrict contract the scope of their activities
b : knit, wrinkle A frown contracted his brow.
c : to draw together : concentrate He contracted his armies into one force
4 : to reduce to smaller size by or as if by squeezing or forcing together contract a muscle
5 : to shorten (a word) by omitting one or more sounds or letters Contract "forecastle" to "fo'c'sle."

intransitive verb

1 : to make a contract The builder contracted with them to build a deck.
2 : 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.



Definition of contract (Entry 3 of 3)

: hired to execute a contract (see contract entry 1 sense 1a) a contract worker a contract killer

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Other Words from contract


contractibility \ kən-​ˌtrak-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce contract (audio) , ˌkän-​ \ noun
contractible \ kən-​ˈtrak-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce contract (audio) , ˈkän-​ˌtrak-​ \ adjective

Synonyms for contract

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Lionel Messi and Barcelona are already negotiating a new contract for the team’s captain and star player, according to a report. Tom Sanderson, Forbes, "Lionel Messi And FC Barcelona Already Negotiating New Contract, Claims Report," 11 May 2021 In mid-April, just as the city was getting ready to award a $1.27 billion contract for the reconstruction of East River Park to the lowest bidder, a joint venture based in Queens, ERPA organized its largest public protest yet. Keith Gessen, Curbed, "New York’s first climate adaptation battle is here.," 10 May 2021 Keenum’s contract for 2021 is $6.5 million, which includes his $5.5 million base and a $1 million roster bonus. cleveland, "Will the Browns conduct their rookie minicamp this weekend despite the NFLPA advising players not to attend? Hey, Mary Kay!," 9 May 2021 General Dynamics NASSCO was awarded a contract of up to $1.6 million in 2019 to build two more expeditionary sea bases and an option for a third. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Navy commissions $525M warship in San Diego," 8 May 2021 The Twins also selected the contract of OF Trevor Larnach from Triple-A St. Paul and designated LHP Brandon Waddell for assignment. ... Noah Trister, Star Tribune, "Twins hit 3 homers in rainy 7-3 win over Tigers," 7 May 2021 And forward Michael Bunting seems set to return with a contract for next season after scoring nine goals in 19 games. The Arizona Republic, "Arizona Coyotes to give young players look over final two games; Jenik set for NHL debut," 7 May 2021 The contract for the bulk of this work was awarded in 2019 to The Whiting Turner Contracting Company for $17.9 million. Kate Bennett And Maegan Vazquez, CNN, "The 'headache' Trump left behind for Biden on the White House lawn," 7 May 2021 The Cubs selected the contract of OF Nick Martini from Iowa. Matt Carlson, ajc, "Davies, Pederson lead Cubs over Pirates 3-2, 4th win in row," 7 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb North Korea has reportedly decided to drop out of the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics due to concerns that its athletes could contract coronavirus in Japan, which is battling a surge in cases. Angela Dewan, CNN, "Hospitals notice a difference in Covid patients," 6 Apr. 2021 But other experts suggested that immunizing essential workers who could more easily contract and spread the virus while on the job would be a more effective way to curb the pandemic. Thuc Nhi Nguyen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Coronavirus Today: Who’s next in the vaccine line?," 26 Feb. 2021 Since the vaccines are not 100 percent effective, it is expected that a small number of people could contract the virus even after being fully vaccinated. NBC News, "Pfizer vaccine may offer strong protection after first dose, Israeli study finds," 19 Feb. 2021 That means people who have had the disease could get it again, and even those who have been vaccinated could still contract COVID-19. David Heath, USA TODAY, "A next generation coronavirus vaccine is in the works. But initial funding was denied.," 17 Feb. 2021 Most recently, opponents said that pipeline workers living in close quarters could contract COVID-19 and spread it to nearby communities and reservations. Barnini Chakraborty, Washington Examiner, "South Dakotans fear for their future, vow not to give up Keystone XL pipeline fight," 9 Feb. 2021 Working in emergency response during a pandemic has been stressful, knowing that responders could contract or spread the virus, Hettrick said. Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News, "As the pandemic presses on, some Alaskans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19," 10 Jan. 2021 The French data protection regulator suggested in the opinion sent to the court that Microsoft could contract with a European company that would encrypt data, which Microsoft could store in the cloud. Catherine Stupp, WSJ, "French Court Asks Microsoft for Safeguards Against U.S. Surveillance of Health Data," 23 Oct. 2020 State statistics show Black and Latino residents have been far more likely to contract COVID-19 and to die from it since the pandemic began in March 2020. Russell Blair,, "Connecticut Politics Week in Review: Gov. Ned Lamont says COVID-19 restrictions — except mask rule — will be lifted May 19," 23 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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, "West Chester Twp. trustees set aside money for non-union employee merit raises," 27 Mar. 2021 Also, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said that Kristaps Porzingis was medically cleared to take part in 5-on-0 work and non-contract defensive work on Friday. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "Kristaps Porzingis ‘looks good’, is expected to practice with Mavericks on the road, says Rick Carlisle," 18 Dec. 2020 The response comes after revelations from Belgian public broadcaster VRT NWS detailed how contract workers in the country sometimes listen to sensitive audio captured by Google Assistant on accident. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Google defends letting human workers listen to Assistant voice conversations," 11 July 2019 Each year in the United States, at least two million people contract drug-resistant infections, and 23,000 die from those illnesses. Alexandra Sifferlin, Time, "Scientists Are Using a New Weapon to Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria—Viruses," 21 June 2018 The board, which has been acting as a mediator, was expected to issue contract recommendations. Diana Lambert, sacbee, "Sacramento teachers plan to strike Wednesday if no deal. Last walkout was in 1989.," 2 Nov. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contract.' 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 contract


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

History and Etymology for contract

Noun and Adjective

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

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Time Traveler for contract

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for contract

Last Updated

14 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contract.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for contract



English Language Learners Definition of contract

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a legal agreement between people, companies, etc.
: a document on which the words of a contract are written
informal : an agreement to kill a person for money



English Language Learners Definition of contract (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make (something) smaller or shorter
: to become smaller
somewhat formal : to become ill with (a disease)


con·​tract | \ ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio) \

Kids Definition of contract

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a legal agreement
2 : a written document that shows the terms and conditions of a legal agreement


con·​tract | \ kən-ˈtrakt, 1 is also ˈkän-ˌtrakt \
contracted; contracting

Kids Definition of contract (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to agree by contract The property's owner contracted to build a house.
2 : to become sick with : catch contract pneumonia
3 : to draw together and make shorter and broader contract a muscle
4 : to make or become smaller : shrink Cold metal contracts.
5 : to make (as a word) shorter by dropping sounds or letters


transitive verb
con·​tract | \ kən-ˈtrakt also ˈkän-ˌtrakt \

Medical Definition of contract

1 : to become affected with contract pneumonia
2 : to reduce to smaller size by or as if by squeezing or drawing together treatment…inhibits spindle formation and contracts chromosomes— Ernst Mayr
3 of a muscle or muscle fiber : to cause to undergo contraction especially : to cause to shorten and thicken

intransitive verb

1 : to draw together so as to become diminished in size
2 of a muscle or muscle fiber : to undergo contraction especially : to shorten and thicken

Other Words from contract

contractibility \ kən-​ˌtrak-​tə-​ˈbil-​ət-​ē, ˌkän-​ How to pronounce contract (audio) \ noun, plural contractibilities
contractible \ kən-​ˈtrak-​tə-​bəl, ˈkän-​ˌ How to pronounce contract (audio) \ adjective

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con·​tract | \ ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio) \

Legal Definition of contract

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : 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
1 : 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
2 : 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
1 : 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

2 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
1 : a contract containing provisions and stipulations not ordinarily found in contracts of its kind
2 : 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
2 : an insurance policy
3 : the study of the law regarding contracts usually used in pl.


transitive verb

Legal Definition of contract (Entry 2 of 2)

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

intransitive verb

: to make a contract

History and Etymology for contract


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

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