contract

1 of 3

noun

con·​tract ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
1
a
: 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.

contract

2 of 3

verb

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

transitive verb

1
a
: to bring on oneself especially inadvertently : incur
contracting debts
b
: to become affected with
contract pneumonia
2
a
: 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
3
a
: 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.
contractibility noun
contractible
kən-ˈtrak-tə-bəl How to pronounce contract (audio)
ˈkän-ˌtrak-
adjective

contract

3 of 3

adjective

: 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

Example Sentences

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
Noun
The 31-year-old McDermott has one more year left on his contract at $13.75 million. Tim Bielik, cleveland, 23 Jan. 2023 The significant payments to workers comes as there is growing unrest among pilots about long-running contract negotiations. Chris Morris, Fortune, 23 Jan. 2023 After Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Miami-Dade Arena, Orlando Robinson, the undrafted rookie center out of Fresno State, has 13 NBA days left on his two-way contract. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 22 Jan. 2023 The Rangers were languishing toward another 90-loss season when the team fired Woodward two games shy of his 500th with the club and with a season remaining on his contract. Dallas News, 20 Jan. 2023 DeVante Parker has one year remaining on his contract. Jim Mcbride, BostonGlobe.com, 18 Jan. 2023 Golding signed a three-year extension in early 2021 that left one season on his contract at Alabama. Michael Casagrande | Mcasagrande@al.com, al, 13 Jan. 2023 Bauer was designated for assignment last Friday, the Dodgers choosing to sever ties with the right-hander — and swallow the remaining $22.5 million on his contract — rather than face the potential public backlash of retaining him. Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan. 2023 During the draft, the owner said that Matt Ryan’s time as starting quarterback might last beyond the two years left on his contract, then instigated a change to Sam Ehlinger after just seven games. The Indianapolis Star, 26 Dec. 2022
Verb
Today, in the days leading up to your period, your body produces increasing amounts of prostaglandins, chemicals that cause your uterine muscles to contract. Health Editorial Team, Health, 22 Jan. 2023 Any sagging or breakdown of this support system could cause the intestines to compress, interfering with its ability to contract and move contents through the tube. Monique Brouillette, Popular Mechanics, 19 Jan. 2023 Co-author Ching-Han Lee and colleagues suggested that the culprit might be the calcium stored in animal muscles, which, when released in response to nerve signals, causes the muscles to contract. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 18 Jan. 2023 After construction is complete, Swetel said JCU will likely continue to contract for the offsite parking locations and consider parking possibilities as part of the gateway project. cleveland, 18 Jan. 2023 San Marcos also intends to contract to the county its street work, law enforcement and similar function. Scott Boyles, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Jan. 2023 While mifepristone is followed up with a second medication called misoprostol that causes the uterus to contract and expel tissue, the FDA rule only applies to the first drug. Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY, 12 Jan. 2023 Misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours later, causing the uterus to contract and expel pregnancy tissue. Matthew Perrone, Fortune, 4 Jan. 2023 The second drug, misoprostol, taken 24 to 48 hours later, causes the uterus to contract and dilates the cervix, which will expel the embryo. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 4 Jan. 2023
Adjective
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, orlandosentinel.com, 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, orlandosentinel.com, 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 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, 18 Dec. 2020 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

Verb

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

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

Adjective

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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contract. Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

contract

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

contract

2 of 2 verb
con·​tract kən-ˈtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
sense 2 usually
ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
1
a
: to bring on oneself
contract debts
b
: to become affected with
contract a cold
2
: to agree by contract
contract to build a house
3
a
: to draw or squeeze together so as to make or become smaller or shorter and broader
brows contracting in puzzlement
contract a muscle
b
: to make or become smaller
metal contracts when cold
4
: to shorten (a word) by leaving out one or more sounds or letters

Medical Definition

contract

transitive verb
con·​tract
kən-ˈtrakt also ˈkän-ˌtrakt
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 chromosomesErnst 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
contractibility noun
plural contractibilities
contractible adjective

Legal Definition

contract

1 of 2 noun
con·​tract ˈkän-ˌtrakt How to pronounce contract (audio)
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
: 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
2
: an insurance policy
3
: the study of the law regarding contracts
usually used in pl.

contract

2 of 2 transitive verb
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

Noun

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

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