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

Example Sentences

the highway project was protracted by years of litigation
Recent Examples on the Web Neither Republicans nor Democrats, Strain said, want to haggle over the debt ceiling twice in a short span, lest they get blamed for fruitless and protracted negotiations with the economy hanging in the balance. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, 3 May 2023 The strike would be the first in 15 years and history suggests it could be protracted. Anousha Sakoui, Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 2023 Already, the war has stretched for more than 14 months, making a yearslong protracted conflict more likely. Paul Sonne,, 6 May 2023 Nonetheless, court battles over estates can be costly and protracted and aren’t limited to celebrities. Winnie Sun, Forbes, 19 Apr. 2023 As such, McCarthy’s comments might best be viewed as an early salvo in what could be protracted negotiations to avert a debt ceiling crisis. Bryan Keogh, The Conversation, 19 Apr. 2023 In scores of communities that have built strong connections to people in post-Soviet Russia, decisions to distance themselves since the war began have often been protracted and wrenching. Jane Gottlieb, Washington Post, 10 Apr. 2023 If such a downturn is prolonged and protracted, months after the fact it is labeled a recession. Jeff Sommer, New York Times, 7 Apr. 2023 Amazon went through a protracted who’s who of potential hires before settling on former Warner Bros. executive Courtenay Valenti. Kim Masters, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Apr. 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 9 Jun. 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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