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

Definition of contraption

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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 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 With the help of an engineer named Norman Heatley, Florey and Chain had built an elaborate contraption that could convert, in the span of an hour, 12 liters of broth filled with the penicillin mold into two liters of penicillin medication. New York Times, "How Humanity Gave Itself an Extra Life," 27 Apr. 2021 The university researchers built an agile contraption about the size of an average climbing lizard. Washington Post, "Robotic lizards may play a role in the future of disaster surveillance, researchers imagine," 6 Apr. 2021 Powering up an ungainly contraption that spanned half the length of a hangar-like packing shed, two women grabbed green husks one by one, slotting them on a conveyor belt for a saw to slice off the ends before stripping them down to the kernels. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, "Vaccine rollout for farmworkers is fraught with confusion and bad timing," 1 Mar. 2021 Even then, few thought that the fragile new contraption would ever amount to more than a novelty. David Hambling, Forbes, "Inventor Warned That Latest Test Of ‘Impossible’ Space Drive Was Fatally Flawed," 9 Apr. 2021 The London outfit has not yet provided detailed information regarding the novel contraption save for a breathtaking, two-minute video on Vimeo. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, "Meet the Hydrosphere, a Glass ‘Elevator’ That Turns Your Superyacht Into an Underwater Aquarium," 26 Mar. 2021 The Solo Stove Lite Stove is a stainless steel contraption that pulls in air through the holes in its base to help the sticks and twigs inside combust. Rob Verger, Popular Science, "Go camping in style and comfort with these gifts," 11 Dec. 2020 This meant the sled would slam to a stop against a wall of liquid, smashing Stapp’s bones and organs against whatever contraption of webbing or straps was on the menu. Rachel Lance, Wired, "A Race Car Crash From Hell—and the Science That Saved Its Driver," 6 Dec. 2020 The new villains have bold designs and visually interesting powers; my favorite is the Tether Tyrant, who wears a contraption around his torso that spits out long pink tethers that look like tongues. Oliver Sava, Vulture, "Invincible Recap: Growing Pains," 9 Apr. 2021

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

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contraption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on contraption

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contraption

Nglish: Translation of contraption for Spanish Speakers

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