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

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What exactly is a contraption?

In the words of one Little Mermaid, “I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty.” It would have been on-theme (though perhaps a bit clunky) for the aquatic princess to include in her siren song the word contraption. Synonymous with both gadget and gizmo, and widget too, in referring to mechanical and electronic devices, contraption is also one of a raft of terms people reach for when talking about various human-made bits and bobs, whether mechanical or not. (It's thought to have possibly been formed as a blend of contrivance, trap, and invention.) Want more thingamabob words? Try doohickey, thingamajig, dingus, or doodad.

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 Most of these contraptions cost well over $1,000, but the Overland Vehicle Systems TMBK 3-Person Rooftop Tent getting rave reviews on Amazon is on sale for $900 right now — that’s $200 off! Olivia Young, Travel + Leisure, 9 Apr. 2024 Then comes the moment Stewart had warned me about: the chin-up competition on a free-standing contraption set up on the deck. Alex Morris, Rolling Stone, 14 Feb. 2024 Last Exit'' is a glorious symphony of the high and the low, of satirical shots at unions and sweet ruminations on the humiliations of adolescence (as evidenced by Lisa, who copes with a medieval mouth contraption), and, of course, all those ''D'oh!''s., 18 Mar. 2024 The Voyager records can be played under the stylus of a phonograph-like contraption, if extraterrestrials ever intercept them. Shi En Kim, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 Mar. 2024 The closest thing the story has to villains (other than Willy Wonka himself) are the misbehaved children who fall victim to Wonka’s contraptions, and Dahl clearly expects the reader to be greatly amused by their suffering. Dani Di Placido, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 The contraption is equipped with two robot arms on each side of the table and will sit right at home in any sci-fi flick's medical examination room. Brenda Stolyar, WIRED, 13 Mar. 2024 There is no archaeological evidence that the contraption existed, as Sener noted in his paper, but many have tried to recreate the mechanism to see if the ancient invention could be feasible. Taylor Nicioli, CNN, 8 Mar. 2024 Dissatisfied with the current options for women and other people with vulvas, the founders of Boom Home Medical set out to create a comfortable and colorful personal urination device that doesn’t look like a contraption out of a hospital room. Popular Science, 29 Nov. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contraption.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


perhaps blend of contrivance, trap, and invention

First Known Use

circa 1825, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of contraption was circa 1825


Dictionary Entries Near contraption

Cite this Entry

“Contraption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


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

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