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

Power still remains mired in a protracted secular contraction for the next year or two. Rick Clough,, "GE CEO’s Make-or-Break Overhaul Took Shape on a Ski Vacation," 27 June 2018 There are huge economic contractions inherent in these systems. WSJ, "China-U.S. Trade on a Tilted Playing Field," 22 Apr. 2018 Alaska's recession didn't officially start until sometime in the latter half of 2015, but economic contraction in the state seemed almost inevitable when oil prices began falling about a year earlier in August 2014. Author: Elwood Brehmer, Anchorage Daily News, "ISER: recession hitting downstream industries," 18 Feb. 2018 Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that help trigger these contractions, resulting in discomfort and leaving your uterus in an inflamed state. Shanelle Drakeford, Allure, "How to Alleviate Period Cramps, According to Doctors," 8 July 2018 Across 18 nonmanufacturing industries tracked by ISM, 17 reported growth in June, led by mining and construction, while one sector reported contraction: agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. Ben Leubsdorf, WSJ, "U.S. Nonmanufacturing Activity Accelerated in June," 5 July 2018 But the contraction of solar sales under Tesla has been significant. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Tesla to cut nearly 20 percent of its SolarCity installation locations," 22 June 2018 But more recent research suggests those contractions may be the end result of a process that starts weeks or even months earlier. Karen Weintraub, STAT, "Blood test might help predict both preterm and healthy delivery dates," 7 June 2018 Though experts aren’t sure of the exact cause behind IBS, intestinal contractions are one major factor in this condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. Korin Miller, SELF, "Here Are All the Things That Can Cause Bizarre Green Poop," 30 May 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

9 Nov 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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