con·​trac·​tion | \ kən-ˈtrak-shən How to pronounce contraction (audio) \

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 How to pronounce contractional (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective
contractive \ kən-​ˈtrak-​tiv How to pronounce contractive (audio) , ˈkän-​ˌtrak-​ How to pronounce contractive (audio) \ adjective
contractionary \ kən-​ˈtrak-​shə-​ˌner-​ē How to pronounce contractionary (audio) \ 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 The Nikon contraction is completely about internal politics rather than consumer preference. Andrew Mckean, Outdoor Life, "Nikon Will No Longer Make Riflescopes," 20 Jan. 2020 But on both days, contraction was a common theme, both for the automotive market and the broader manufacturing sector. Los Angeles Times, "$50,000 for a Jeep? Sticker shock helps explain why auto sales may stall out," 2 Oct. 2019 An index published by the Institute for Supply Management dropped to 47.2 in December, the lowest reading since June 2009 and the fifth straight month of contraction. New York Times, "U.S. Manufacturing Slumps as Trade War Damage Lingers," 3 Jan. 2020 However, the index increased to -4.2 in the fourth quarter from -7.4 in the third, suggesting the pace of contraction had eased. Erin Douglas, Houston Chronicle, "Texas oil and gas activity contracted in fourth quarter," 27 Dec. 2019 Prostaglandins soften and open the cervix, which could lead to the onset of contractions. Ashley Mateo,, "Can Sex Induce Labor? Ob-Gyns Weigh In," 11 Dec. 2019 Also pulling out of the doldrums, Turkey’s economy expanded by 0.9% in the third quarter, following nine months of contraction. The Economist, "Business this week," 7 Dec. 2019 Earlier in the day, yields were under pressure immediately after the manufacturing report’s release, which showed a third straight month of contraction. Stan Choe And Damian J. Troise, USA TODAY, "The S&P 500 hit a record after a strong jobs report, notching four straight weeks of gains," 2 Nov. 2019 The latest IHS Markit PMI figures show the fifth month in a row of factory-activity contraction, but at a slowing pace, thanks to the stockpiling. David Meyer, Fortune, "The Future of IPOs: CEO Daily," 1 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for contraction

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for contraction

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contraction.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for contraction


How to pronounce contraction (audio)

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 How to pronounce contraction (audio) \

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 How to pronounce contraction (audio) \

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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