con·​trib·​u·​to·​ry kən-ˈtri-byə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce contributory (audio)
: of, relating to, or forming a contribution : playing a part in bringing about an end or result
The lack of cultural empathy among the principal statesmen in the late 1930s is identified as an important contributory factor in the slide toward war …Colin S. Gray
Infection was a contributory but not primary cause of death in another nine patients.Graeme F. Washer
: relating to or being an employee benefit (such as a retirement account) that is funded at least in part by employee contributions
a contributory 401(k) plan
: subject to or contributing to a common fund or enterprise : subject to levy or furnishing a share or contingent
contributory allies
contributorily adverb
was found to be contributorily negligent

Examples of contributory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The oil and gas companies can raise a contributory negligence defense on two fronts. Ed Hirs, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 The broken arm was listed as a contributory cause of death, after complications of Alzheimer's dementia, cardiovascular disease and emphysema. Caitlin McGlade, The Arizona Republic, 28 Aug. 2023 Environmental heat exposure was a contributory cause. Carolyn Kormann, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2023 There are quite a few contributory forums and panels which are helping Governments ultimately write the regulations. Sriram Bhargav Madhav, Forbes, 23 Mar. 2023 McLemore's history of methamphetamine withdrawal was cited as a contributory cause of death. Tami Abdollah, USA TODAY, 12 Apr. 2023 Sadly, as is often the case in special educational needs – there are simply insufficient QTVIs to go around and this is a contributory factor to there being an academic attainment gap between fully sighted and visually impaired children of around 33% up to the age of 16. Gus Alexiou, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2023 One contributory factor may have been a loosening of the Dodd-Frank regulatory rules for medium-sized banks, which both parties in Congress approved in 2018 at the behest of the bank lobby. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, 13 Mar. 2023 An animal sedative not meant for human consumption was a contributory cause in 50 overdose deaths last year, the Hamilton County Coroner's office reported Wednesday. The Enquirer, 8 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contributory.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English contributorie, contributarie "liable for payment of a levy or assessment, making contribution to a cause," borrowed from Anglo-French contributoire, contributorie, borrowed from Medieval Latin contribūtōrius, from Latin contribū-, variant stem of contribuere "to join into one unit, attach (to a polity or ruler), give as a portion or share" + -tōrius, deverbal adjective suffix originally forming derivatives from agent nouns ending in -tōr-, -tor — more at contribute

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of contributory was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near contributory

Cite this Entry

“Contributory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


con·​trib·​u·​to·​ry kən-ˈtrib-yə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce contributory (audio)
: serving to contribute
especially : helping to accomplish a result

Legal Definition


con·​trib·​u·​to·​ry kən-ˈtri-byə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce contributory (audio)
: characterized by or making contributions to a common fund or enterprise
specifically : of, relating to, or being an employee benefit plan to which both employers and employees make contributions
: helping to bring about an end or result
contributory infringement

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