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

Definition of contraption

Synonyms for contraption


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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 in the early 1800s. Second, the origins of all four are a bit of a mystery. While widget is believed to be an alteration of gadget, the origins of gadget are unknown—it didn't appear in print until later in the 19th century, and it is believed to have been used earlier among sailors. Gizmo sprang into American English in the mid-20th century from origins unknown. The word 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 To put the fantastical contraption to the test at Goodwood, Le Mans–winning driver Romain Dumas is suiting up in the cockpit of the SuperVan 4. Sasha Richie, Car and Driver, 23 June 2022 The consensus among the group was that the newfangled contraption would never amount to anything. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 June 2022 But the contraption failed to catch on, perhaps because smells could travel back up the pipe. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, 9 June 2022 Now dip the contraption in a ceramic slurry again and again. Jeff Macgregor, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 May 2022 The two-meter-tall contraption is the key to Lau and Herbreteau's latest venture: Mora, a modern French-Chinese restaurant that celebrates one of the world's most misunderstood ingredients -- soy. Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNN, 16 June 2022 The contraption seen below is Google’s new camera system the company designed to improve Street View imagery in Google Maps. Chris Smith, BGR, 24 May 2022 An industrial-strength Sisyphus machine, the relentless contraption is grimly disturbing. Los Angeles Times, 29 Mar. 2022 At the time, Disney Parks Blog said the back story was that Prince Charming had devised a spinning contraption for his personal jousting practice. Dewayne Bevil,, 3 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of contraption was circa 1825

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Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Contraption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for contraption


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

Kids Definition of contraption

: gadget

More from Merriam-Webster on contraption

Nglish: Translation of contraption for Spanish Speakers


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