re·​tract ri-ˈtrakt How to pronounce retract (audio)
retracted; retracting; retracts

transitive verb

: to draw back or in
cats retract their claws
: take back, withdraw
retract a confession

intransitive verb

: to draw or pull back
: to recant or disavow something
retractable adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for retract

abjure, renounce, forswear, recant, retract mean to withdraw one's word or professed belief.

abjure implies a firm and final rejecting or abandoning often made under oath.

abjured the errors of his former faith

renounce may carry the meaning of disclaim or disown.

renounced abstract art and turned to portrait painting

forswear may add an implication of perjury or betrayal.

I cannot forswear my principles

recant stresses the withdrawing or denying of something professed or taught.

if they recant they will be spared

retract applies to the withdrawing of a promise, an offer, or an accusation.

the newspaper had to retract the story

recede, retreat, retract, back mean to move backward.

recede implies a gradual withdrawing from a forward or high fixed point in time or space.

the flood waters gradually receded

retreat implies withdrawal from a point or position reached.

retreating soldiers

retract implies drawing back from an extended position.

a cat retracting its claws

back is used with up, down, out, or off to refer to any retrograde motion.

backed off on the throttle

Examples of retract in a Sentence

A cat can retract its claws. The pilot retracted the plane's landing gear. The plane's landing gear failed to retract. Their college grants were retracted. They retracted the job offer.
Recent Examples on the Web David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images Logistics unicorn Flexport is in a state of flux right now—and that means it’s had to retract dozens of job offers just a few days before some of the new hires were due to start work at the company. Chloe Taylor, Fortune, 11 Sep. 2023 About 18 months after the woman’s original procedure, doctors removed an Alexis wound retractor — a soft, round plastic device that retracts the edges of an incision during surgery — from the woman’s abdomen, the report states. Kyle Melnick, Washington Post, 5 Sep. 2023 There are plenty of flamboyant supercar touches such as front and rear butterfly doors and a carbon-fiber hardtop that retracts into the trunk to provide open-air driving. Caleb Miller, Car and Driver, 11 Aug. 2023 Airlines Send Empty Planes to Hawaii, Add Flights to Evacuate Thousands of Tourists Amid Wildfires To get lift, the plane’s wing flaps are set to a certain angle during takeoff, in this case 20 degrees, and incrementally retracted once in the air. Sam Burros, Peoplemag, 11 Aug. 2023 The academic paper featuring that study, which described three separate experiments and had five co-authors in all, was retracted not long after. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, 2 Aug. 2023 Advertisement Related:Fort Worth’s BNSF earns praise as one of Berkshire Hathaway’s ‘Four Giants’ With Gunter retracting its request to annex the county portion, the deal is now at a standstill, Souther said. Irving Mejia-Hilario, Dallas News, 27 July 2023 Use a caliper compression tool, shown here, or a C clamp to retract the piston. Jeff Dengate, Popular Mechanics, 14 Aug. 2023 The news of my win came a month later, but it was retracted soon thereafter based on a technicality. Time, 10 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'retract.' 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, from Latin retractus, past participle of retrahere — more at retreat

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near retract

Cite this Entry

“Retract.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


re·​tract ri-ˈtrakt How to pronounce retract (audio)
: to draw or pull back or in
a cat can retract its claws
: to withdraw (as an offer, a statement, or a claim)
the newspaper retracted the story
retractable adjective

Medical Definition


transitive verb
re·​tract ri-ˈtrakt How to pronounce retract (audio)
: to draw back or in
retract the lower jaw
compare protract

intransitive verb

: to draw something (as tissue) back or in
also : to use a retractor

More from Merriam-Webster on retract

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