con·​trap·​tion | \ kən-ˈtrap-shən How to pronounce contraption (audio) \

Definition of contraption

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Synonyms for contraption


appliance, contrivance, gadget, gimmick, gizmo (also gismo), jigger, widget

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What Exactly is a contraption?

English has a number of words that can be used as general terms for mechanical or electronic devices, including gadget, gizmo, widget, and contraption. In addition to their meaning, these four words also have a couple of other things in common. First, they are all relative newcomers to the language. The oldest, contraption, entered the language around 1825. Second, the origins of all four are a bit of a mystery (well, widget is believed to be an alteration of gadget, but the origins of gadget are unknown-it didn't appear in print until 1886, but is believed to have been used among sailors perhaps as far back as the mid-1800s). Contraption, may be a blend of contrivance (which can be used as another synonym of gadget), trap, and invention.

Examples of contraption in a Sentence

The people wondered how the contraption worked. built a contraption for automatically buttering toast

Recent Examples on the Web

My girlfriend at the time had a Bialetti, the original—an inexpensive, perfect contraption created in Italy by Alfonso Bialetti 80 years ago. Ryan D'agostino, Popular Mechanics, "The O.G. Stovetop Espresso Maker Is Still the Best," 5 Nov. 2018 The craft was called the Lady Duck, an odd amphibious contraption that was cobbled together using the chassis of a Ford F-350 truck, sealed to be watertight, and extended to a length of 28 feet. Eric Adler, The Seattle Times, "Congress didn’t act after 1999 duck-boat tragedy. Now it must, experts say.," 30 July 2018 But Strange Hotel’s attempt to add more and more contraptions fizzled. Takashi Mochizuki, WSJ, "Robot Hotel Loses Love for Robots," 14 Jan. 2019 Or, try a tumbler, which is a contraption that reportedly takes less time to fully compost your scraps. Audrey Bruno, SELF, "How to Start Composting," 8 Jan. 2019 Now if only there was a contraption like this for fitted bed sheets. Shelby Deering, Good Housekeeping, "The Laundry Essentials That’ll Save You a Ton of Time During the Holidays," 27 Nov. 2018 What befell them Wednesday was a Rube Goldberg contraption of woe, one stroke of bad luck, or poor play, after another. Ben Shpigel, New York Times, "The Save of the Year Saves the Capitals," 31 May 2018 Eventually, fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood, Helmut Lang, Alexander McQueen, and Rick Owens became intrigued by the body contraption. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Virgil Abloh, Michael Jackson, and the History of the Male Fashion Harness," 17 Jan. 2019 This might prepare a kid for IKEA purchases, but a box lets children build their own unique contraptions, challenging them to think creatively and act skillfully, choosing tools, testing structures and considering design, strength, purpose and more. Lorraine Allen, WSJ, "An Empty Box Is the Perfect Christmas Gift," 19 Dec. 2018

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

circa 1825, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for contraption

perhaps blend of contrivance, trap, and invention

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Statistics for contraption

Last Updated

6 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for contraption

The first known use of contraption was circa 1825

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More Definitions for contraption



English Language Learners Definition of contraption

: a piece of equipment or machinery that is unusual or strange


con·​trap·​tion | \ kən-ˈtrap-shən How to pronounce contraption (audio) \

Kids Definition of contraption

: gadget

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More from Merriam-Webster on contraption

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with contraption

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contraption

Spanish Central: Translation of contraption

Nglish: Translation of contraption for Spanish Speakers

Comments on contraption

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