con·trac·tion | \ kən-ˈtrak-shən \

Definition of contraction 

1a : the action or process of contracting The hot metal undergoes contraction as it cools. : the state of being contracted

b : the shortening and thickening of a functioning muscle or muscle fiber

c : a reduction in business activity or growth

d : the act of acquiring or incurring (something, such as a debt) or catching (something, such as an infection) contraction of pneumonia

2 : a shortening of a word, syllable, or word group by omission of a sound or letter also : a form produced by such shortening "They'll" is a contraction for "they will."

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Other words from contraction

contractional \kən-ˈtrak-shnəl, -shə-nᵊl \ adjective
contractive \kən-ˈtrak-tiv, ˈkän-ˌtrak- \ adjective
contractionary \kən-ˈtrak-shə-ˌner-ē \ adjective

Examples of contraction in a Sentence

The hot metal undergoes contraction as it cools. Two teams were eliminated in the contraction of the baseball league. She felt contractions every two minutes.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Each tiny part of the slime mold contracts and expands over the course of about one minute, but the contraction rate is linked to the quality of the local environment. Katia Moskvitch, WIRED, "Slime Molds Remember—But Do They Learn?," 14 July 2018 McElrath said doctors have long assumed that preterm contractions force the cervix to yield, leading to preterm birth. Karen Weintraub, STAT, "Blood test might help predict both preterm and healthy delivery dates," 7 June 2018 The researchers stress that this global fossil fuel contraction could happen with or without new climate policy, as low-carbon technology is adopted. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Researchers predict economic downturn if fossil fuel investment goes unchecked," 5 June 2018 However, the president, a former bus driver and foreign minister, has given little indication of his plans to remedy inflation that may hit 13,000 percent this year, and an economic contraction that could reach 9.2 percent. Andrew Rosati,, "Venezuelans Vote in Election Overshadowed by Crisis," 20 May 2018 As Eric Dier sealed England’s victory and thereby ended two decades of penalty pain, Delph’s wife Natalie, heavily pregnant, began to feel contractions. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "World Cup penalty shootout sent England player's wife into labor," 9 July 2018 Readings over 50 generally indicate economic expansion while readings below 50 show contraction. L.m. Sixel, Houston Chronicle, "Houston economy expands for 7th straight month," 11 June 2018 Hurricane Grill’s history has been marked by several ownership changes, expansions and contractions. Ron Hurtibise,, "South Florida's Hurricane Grill & Wings now part of Ponderosa, Fatburger family," 9 July 2018 Women experiencing early contractions or those who have had previously given birth to a preterm baby are considered at risk. Fiza Pirani, ajc, "New blood test could predict pregnant woman’s due date, premature birth risk," 12 June 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for contraction

see contract entry 1

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Statistics for contraction

Last Updated

31 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contraction

The first known use of contraction was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for contraction



English Language Learners Definition of contraction

: the act or process of making something smaller or of becoming smaller

medical : a movement of a muscle that causes it to become tight and that is sometimes painful; especially : a movement of muscles in the womb when a woman is giving birth to a child

: a short form of a word or word group that is made by leaving out a sound or letter


con·trac·tion | \ kən-ˈtrak-shən \

Kids Definition of contraction

1 : the act, process, or result of making or becoming smaller or shorter and broader contraction of a muscle

2 : a short form of a word or word group (as don't or they've) produced by leaving out a letter or letters


con·trac·tion | \ kən-ˈtrak-shən \

Medical Definition of contraction 

1 : the action or process of contracting : the state of being contracted contraction of hepatitis lung expansion and contraction in breathing —P. G. Donohue

2 : the action of a functioning muscle or muscle fiber in which force is generated accompanied especially by shortening and thickening of the muscle or muscle fiber or sometimes by its lengthening isometric contraction isotonic contraction especially : the shortening and thickening of a functioning muscle or muscle fiber

3 : one of usually a series of rhythmic tightening actions of the uterine muscles (as during menstruation or labor)

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Comments on contraction

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the setting in which something occurs

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