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 contractibility (audio) , ˌkän-​ \ noun
contractible \ kən-​ˈtrak-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce contractible (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 Kittle is in the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him $2.1 million in base salary for 2020. oregonlive, "Can they avoid the dreaded Super Bowl hangover? 10 questions for the San Francisco 49ers as NFL training camp opens," 1 Aug. 2020 The Astros and Hinch negotiated a settlement on the remainder of his contract. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, "Astros owner Jim Crane opens up on sign-stealing scandal: 'It weighs on all of us every day'," 31 July 2020 In 2018, Jeffries said, Glendale firefighters say their contract should have provided them a certain pay increase. Jen Fifield, The Arizona Republic, "Why Arizona police and fire unions launched a campaign against Glendale's mayor," 31 July 2020 Notre Dame will share the revenue from its NBC contract with the 14 other schools. Eric Hansen, The Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame football has high ceiling, clear path to prove it with new ACC schedule," 31 July 2020 Green officially signed his one-year contract earlier this month. Tyler Dragon, The Enquirer, "Bengals coach Zac Taylor: We're going to put a lot on Joe Burrow right out the gate," 31 July 2020 This week, Benny Tai—a legal scholar who was jailed for his role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement—was fired from his job at the University of Hong Kong, while another activist academic in social work was told his contract would not be renewed. Mary Hui, Quartz, "Iran-style “elections” are coming to Hong Kong," 30 July 2020 Players who aren't considered high-risk but voluntarily opt-out of the season will receive a $150,000 salary advance and their contract will toll as well. Gabrielle Chung,, "N.Y. Giants' Nate Solder Opts Out of Season amid Son's Cancer Struggle," 29 July 2020 Last week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner directed the city's legal department to work with Houston First Corp., the operator of the convention center, to review its contract with the party. Cassandra Polluck, Houston Chronicle, "Texas Supreme Court denies Texas GOP's appeal to hold Houston convention in person," 13 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Companies that contract with airlines and airports took more than $500 million in federal funds but laid off thousands of workers anyway, according to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Washington Post, "Live updates: White House says emergency payments likely to stop; U.S. tallies 1,400 coronavirus deaths in a day," 30 July 2020 Republicans also want fewer protections for workers and customers at stores who might contract the virus while working or shopping by shielding companies from litigation. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "What to know about the next round of stimulus checks: Who gets them and how much could they be?," 30 July 2020 It is also noted on the page that a significant portion of people who contract the virus are asymptomatic. Mckenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Discharge document from medical center is outdated," 4 July 2020 The largest review to date of more than 100 studies done worldwide has confirmed a positive fact: Most children who contract COVID-19 will do just fine. Express-news Staff,, "Timeline of coronavirus in San Antonio: May and June," 30 June 2020 Pregnant patients who contract COVID-19 may be at higher risk of hospitalization in intensive care and being put on a ventilator, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Anna Claire Vollers |, al, "Pregnant patients may be at increased risk for severe COVID-19 complications, says CDC," 29 June 2020 In its weekly report, the CDC said pregnant women who contract the virus are at greater risk to be hospitalized, admitted into an intensive care unit and put on a ventilator, according to a study of cases reported from January to June. Fox News, "Pregnant women with coronavirus more likely to be hospitalized, CDC warns," 25 June 2020 The campaign waiver is similar to proposals by Republican U.S. senators to protect employers from lawsuits brought by employees or customers who contract coronavirus. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Trump campaign requires ticket holders to Mike Pence's Wisconsin rally to waive coronavirus liability," 22 June 2020 Individuals who contract the virus but don’t show symptoms are more likely to be younger people with no underlying health conditions, health experts have said. Dallas News, "Here’s what you need to know about asymptomatic transmission and COVID-19," 16 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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

5 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contract.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for contract


How to pronounce contract (audio)

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


How to pronounce contract (audio) How to pronounce contract (audio)

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
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 contractibility (audio) \ noun, plural contractibilities
contractible \ kən-​ˈtrak-​tə-​bəl, ˈkän-​ˌ How to pronounce contractible (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.

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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