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

Zookz Sandwiches This local restaurant specializes in toasted, round sandwiches made by crisping bread and other ingredients in a special contraption. Lauren Saria, azcentral, "10 best places for cheap eats in downtown Phoenix," 15 Aug. 2019 Popper's laboratory, for example, used a large contraption to mimic the sounds created by a pile being hammered into the sea floor. Elizabeth Preston, Science | AAAS, "A growing sensory smog threatens the ability of fish to communicate, navigate, and survive," 20 June 2019 But there’s so much more than H2O in that small plastic bottle. Dr. Stoeckle pours the fluid through a special filter atop a glass contraption that looks a bit like a pour-over coffee maker. Amanda Paulson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Message in a bottle: Forensics meets marine science with eDNA," 15 Aug. 2019 But the overall pattern of the play tips toward despair, seeing families as Rube Goldberg contraptions for the transfer of neurosis. New York Times, "Review: In ‘Make Believe,’ Four Children Meet Their Inner Adults," 15 Aug. 2019 To accommodate the packed room, highballs are served from a machine, a contraption that's ubiquitous now throughout Tokyo. Dallas News, "In the watering holes of Tokyo, the highball reigns supreme," 6 Aug. 2019 In drops said shadowy threat, an elastic foe with a clownish cackle and a contraption that will end all organic life on earth — that means people, too! Nick Romano,, "First Steven Universe The Movie trailer drops at Comic-Con," 19 July 2019 Internal affairs The authors of the new study, led by Massey University’s Gert Lube, used a contraption called the Pyroclastic flow Eruption Large-scale Experiment, or PELE, to safely study pyroclastic flows in action. National Geographic, "Volcanic 'avalanches' glide on air, boosting their deadly speed," 8 Apr. 2019 The result was a refrigerator-size contraption of catalysts, tubes, electronics, and filters, assembled a week before the pitch fest. Robert F. Service, Science | AAAS, "This former playwright aims to turn solar and wind power into gasoline," 3 July 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

18 Sep 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).


concealment of treason or felony

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