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

Martin, a six-year-old from Spain, took things even further by adding a candy machine (which is the large yellow contraption), a fish tank table, five beds bunked in a row, and even a cinema screen. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "This Company Let Kids Draw Their Dream Rooms—And Then Brought Them to Life," 19 Apr. 2019 So schools cops and educators have to drift through a bazaar of school safety products, testing out strange contraptions that maybe, possibly, could keep a student alive. Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "I went to a huge conference on school safety. No one wanted to talk about gun control.," 30 July 2018 Plant lovers won't have to worry about damaging their windows, walls, and ceilings with this removable contraption—there are no tools required. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "This Simple Invention Will Transform Your Window Into Plant-Hanging Heaven," 19 Mar. 2019 Another buyer appreciated how much better the bowl looked on her windowsill compared to her husband's previous styrofoam cup and toothpick contraptions. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "The "AvoSeedo" Is the Cutest and Easiest Way to Grow an Avocado Tree at Home," 21 Feb. 2019 The startup, which makes popular circular contraptions that can be used as a grip or a stand affixed to cellphones, sold its accessories at wholesale prices to Amazon, which then sold them at retail prices to shoppers. Jason Del Rey, Recode, "An Amazon revolt could be brewing as the tech giant exerts more control over brands," 29 Nov. 2018 Umbrellas range from pocket-size to contraptions large enough to cover your deck and have changed little in several thousand years. Peter Holley,, "The physics behind the odd-looking 'stormproof umbrella'," 30 Mar. 2018 Umbrellas range from pocket-size to contraptions large enough to cover your deck and have changed little in several thousand years. Peter Holley, Washington Post, "The physics behind this odd-looking, ‘stormproof umbrella’ from the Netherlands," 30 Mar. 2018 The entire contraption is now being towed back to Hawaii to undergo repairs, and the Ocean Cleanup team will spend the foreseeable future redeveloping its design. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The Project to Clean Up the Pacific Garbage Patch Is Literally Falling Apart," 8 Jan. 2019

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

15 May 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

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


highly pertinent or appropriate

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