pro·​tract prō-ˈtrakt How to pronounce protract (audio)
protracted; protracting; protracts

transitive verb

: to prolong in time or space : continue
: to extend forward or outward compare retract sense 1
archaic : delay, defer
protractive adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for protract

extend, lengthen, prolong, protract mean to draw out or add to so as to increase in length.

extend and lengthen imply a drawing out in space or time but extend may also imply increase in width, scope, area, or range.

extend a vacation
extend welfare services
lengthen a skirt
lengthen the workweek

prolong suggests chiefly increase in duration especially beyond usual limits.

prolonged illness

protract adds to prolong implications of needlessness, vexation, or indefiniteness.

protracted litigation

Examples of protract in a Sentence

the highway project was protracted by years of litigation
Recent Examples on the Web But Napoleon is protracted, as if running time and rambling narrative incidents (the back-and-forth from battlefield to Josephine) amounted to substance. Armond White, National Review, 24 Nov. 2023 New Zealand’s mixed member proportional voting system makes such power-sharing arrangements the norm in the nation of 5 million, and coalition negotiations are often protracted as parties try to find common ground and divide up cabinet responsibilities. Michael E. Miller, Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2023 But protracted stays in microgravity (the current record, 437 days, was set by the Russian astronaut Valeri Polyakov in 1995) make for painful recoveries. Kim Tingley, New York Times, 12 Nov. 2023 Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests were the largest and most protracted in the city’s history. Ellen Bork, WSJ, 7 Nov. 2023 Photo: lim huey teng/Reuters Malaysia’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged on Thursday as expected, and said the country’s growth outlook continues to face risks such as weak external demand and protracted declines in commodities production. Ying Xian Wong, WSJ, 2 Nov. 2023 What is more, whereas most of Europe’s hard-right parties are moderating their discourse in their quest for power, the AfD’s radical wing has won a bitter and protracted struggle for internal dominance and makes no effort to hide its radical views. Liana Fix, Foreign Affairs, 10 Oct. 2023 Disagreements among advisers, while at times robust and protracted, have barely surfaced in the press. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 9 Oct. 2023 Negotiations for the release of the Israeli prisoners will be complex and protracted. Kim Ghattas, The Atlantic, 8 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin protractus, past participle of protrahere, literally, to draw forward, from pro- forward + trahere to draw — more at pro-

First Known Use

1540, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of protract was in 1540

Dictionary Entries Near protract

Cite this Entry

“Protract.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pro·​tract prō-ˈtrakt How to pronounce protract (audio)

Medical Definition


transitive verb
pro·​tract prō-ˈtrakt How to pronounce protract (audio)
: to extend forward or outward
the mandible is protracted and retracted in chewing
compare retract

More from Merriam-Webster on protract

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