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

Definition of 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 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 That measurement is what inspired the contraption's name: MaRTy, shorthand for mean radiant temperature. Erin Stone, azcentral, "'Cool pavement' experiments help urban planners find ways to ease rising temperatures," 15 May 2020 The 7-pound contraption folds down to the size of a briefcase, and includes a carry handle to boot. Outdoor Life, "Reliable camping toilets for when nature calls," 23 Apr. 2020 The iron lung, invented in the late 1920s, was large and cumbersome, requiring the patient to lie inside the contraption up to their neck. Fox News, "Advancements in breathing devices for WWII fighter pilots paved way for modern ventilator," 1 Apr. 2020 Other contraptions that are being considered are dividing screens in restaurants, plexiglass cubicles on beaches and mobile barriers for car assembly lines. CBS News, "From gadgets to high-tech: Here are some safety innovations spurred by coronavirus pandemic," 29 Apr. 2020 A few minutes later, a triangular contraption called a LUCAS, which automates the work of compression, was delivered. The New Yorker, "at the epicenter of the pandemic.," 27 Apr. 2020 On a table inside the magnetically shielded lab of Roger Fu, a planetary scientist at Harvard University, sits a modest contraption that is telling profound stories about the geologic past. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Diamond microscope reveals slow crawl of Earth’s ancient crust," 22 Apr. 2020 Measuring and cutting the elastic was taking too long, so someone on the assembly line with experience building theater sets helped devise a contraption to expedite the process. Jane Margolies, New York Times, "That Face Shield Might Have Been Made in a Party Space," 19 Apr. 2020 At minimum, imagine a personal desk-size space, either with a table or some sort of PVC piping at-home contraption rigged up to an actual steering wheel and braking/accelerating pedals. Nathan Brown, Indianapolis Star, "With four 2020 races canceled, IndyCar turns to iRacing to fill the competitive void," 20 Mar. 2020

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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Time Traveler for contraption

Time Traveler

The first known use of contraption was circa 1825

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Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contraption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for contraption


How to pronounce contraption (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on contraption

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contraption

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with contraption

Spanish Central: Translation of contraption

Nglish: Translation of contraption for Spanish Speakers

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