con·trap·tion | \kən-ˈtrap-shən \

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

This prodigious, impeccably maintained contraption has all the bells, whistles, horns and glockenspiels of the traditional organ — and it's painted in all the lysergic colors of the Day-Glo rainbow. David Kipen,, "Critic at Large David Kipen on El Segundo in literature," 18 Apr. 2018 The contraption, called Citadel, measures 8-feet tall, 5-feet wide, and 4-feet deep, and took an entire year to build. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "This Gigantic Knex Machine Is the Reason God Created Balls," 27 June 2016 To make a single molecule, Ni’s group built a bespoke contraption: a machine consisting of lasers and lenses, a vacuum chamber, detectors, and coils of wire. Sophia Chen, WIRED, "Chemists Orchestrate the Molecular Union of Two Single Atoms," 27 Apr. 2018 Most of them fired homemade mortars, while others wielded makeshift guns, small contraptions welded from metal pipes. Caroline Houck, Washington Post, "In Nicaragua, a ‘town of fighters’ is at the heart of an intensifying crisis," 24 June 2018 The Reputation tour stage itself is a thing of wonder: a 110-foot-tall structure resembling a skyscraper in progress, with six crane-like contraptions stretching up above a wedge-like screen that functions as video display and framing device. Randy Lewis,, "Even at the Rose Bowl, Taylor Swift forges an intimate bond with fans," 19 May 2018 The new contraption allowed several people to work out simultaneously, bringing weight training into the mainstream. USA TODAY, "The biggest exercise fad the year you were born," 12 July 2018 The entire contraption is controlled by two joysticks in the cockpit, and the entire craft hovers in place when not actively being driven. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Here's the Newest Design From Larry Page's Flying Car Company," 6 June 2018 Most handguns come with one or two magazines—the detachable contraption that stores ammunition and is inserted into the grip. Jay Willis, GQ, "Owning a Gun in America Is a Luxury," 30 Apr. 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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Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

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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 \

Kids Definition of contraption

: gadget

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Comments on contraption

What made you want to look up contraption? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


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