social contract


Definition of social contract

: an actual or hypothetical agreement among the members of an organized society or between a community and its ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each

Examples of social contract in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

All of this has led to a huge shift in the US social contract, from one in which supports are based on poverty — often limited to deep poverty — to one in which programs are based on need and children. Mark Schmitt, Vox, "Why did Bernie Sanders’s Stop BEZOS legislation draw so much resistance?," 18 Sep. 2018 The brilliance of the performance is to render Inga’s actions horrifyingly logical for someone unconstrained by the social contract. Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times, "Review: An Icelandic Suburb Hides Deep Dysfunction ‘Under the Tree’," 5 July 2018 The International Monetary Fund sponsored several changes to government entitlements that underlay the Jordanian social contract. Allison Spencer Hartnett, Washington Post, "Can Jordan’s new prime minister reform the government?," 13 June 2018 At a time when Britain’s social contract has been shaken by Brexit, and scandals like the Grenfell tower fire, there is enormous— value in having a member of the royal family who is not white, nor especially privileged. Daisy Goodwin, Time, "How Meghan Markle Is Giving the Royal Family the Shake-Up It Needs," 17 May 2018 Or rather, the reason is that words have meanings arbitrarily assigned to them, according to a vast social contract co-signed by all its speakers at any given moment in history. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "What’s So Bad About the C-Word?," 5 June 2018 The region’s social contract, which promised a decent job to anybody who wanted one, has been ripped up. New York Times, "Tax Breaks to Draw Jobs: A Bad Option, and Often the Only One," 8 May 2018 This dynamic is an integral part of living in a free-speech society—if not the First Amendment itself, then the social contract built atop its foundation. Jay Willis, GQ, "Racist Lawyer Aaron Schlossberg Did This All to Himself," 19 May 2018 While these societies are busy building walls of one kind or another, whether to prevent integration or to pursue protectionism, Mr. Bremmer says that their social contracts are steadily eroding. Howard W. French, WSJ, "‘Us vs. Them’ Review: The Haves and Have-Nots," 23 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'social contract.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of social contract

1660, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about social contract

Statistics for social contract

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for social contract

The first known use of social contract was in 1660

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for social contract

social contract

so·​cial contract

Legal Definition of social contract

: an actual or hypothetical agreement among individuals forming an organized society or between the community and the ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each

More from Merriam-Webster on social contract

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with social contract Encyclopedia article about social contract

Comments on social contract

What made you want to look up social contract? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an enemy or opponent

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Thing: Animal Edition

  • alt 5a023732e6f75
  • Name that animal:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!