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[noun, adjective, verb 15–17, 21, 22 kon-trakt; verb kuh n-trakt] /noun, adjective, verb 15–17, 21, 22 ˈkɒn trækt; verb kənˈtrækt/
an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.
an agreement enforceable by law.
the written form of such an agreement.
the division of law dealing with contracts.
Also called contract bridge. a variety of bridge in which the side that wins the bid can earn toward game only that number of tricks named in the contract, additional points being credited above the line.
Compare auction bridge.
  1. a commitment by the declarer and his or her partner to take six tricks plus the number specified by the final bid made.
  2. the final bid itself.
  3. the number of tricks so specified, plus six.
the formal agreement of marriage; betrothal.
Slang. an arrangement for a hired assassin to kill a specific person.
under contract; governed or arranged by special contract:
a contract carrier.
verb (used with object)
to draw together or into smaller compass; draw the parts of together:
to contract a muscle.
to wrinkle:
to contract the brows.
to shorten (a word, phrase, etc.) by combining or omitting some of its elements: Contracting “do not” yields “don't.”.
to get or acquire, as by exposure to something contagious:
to contract a disease.
to incur, as a liability or obligation:
to contract a debt.
to settle or establish by agreement:
to contract an alliance.
to assign (a job, work, project, etc.) by contract:
The publisher contracted the artwork.
to enter into an agreement with:
to contract a free-lancer to do the work.
to enter into (friendship, acquaintance, etc.).
to betroth.
verb (used without object)
to become drawn together or reduced in compass; become smaller; shrink:
The pupils of his eyes contracted in the light.
to enter into an agreement:
to contract for snow removal.
Verb phrases
contract out, to hire an outside contractor to produce or do.
put out a contract on, Slang. to hire or attempt to hire an assassin to kill (someone):
The mob put out a contract on the informer.
Origin of contract
1275-1325; (noun) Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Latin contractus undertaking a transaction, agreement, equivalent to contrac-, variant stem of contrahere to draw in, bring together, enter into an agreement (con- con- + trahere to drag, pull; cf. traction) + -tus suffix of v. action; (v.) < Latin contractus, past participle of contrahere
Related forms
contractee, noun
contractible, adjective
contractibility, contractibleness, noun
contractibly, adverb
noncontract, adjective
overcontract, verb (used with object)
postcontract, noun
recontract, verb (used with object)
10. reduce, shorten, lessen, narrow, shrivel, shrink.
10. expand.
Synonym Study
1. See agreement. 10.Contract, compress, concentrate, condense imply retaining original content but reducing the amount of space occupied. Contract means to cause to draw more closely together: to contract a muscle. Compress suggests fusing to become smaller by means of fairly uniform external pressure: to compress gases into liquid form. Concentrate implies causing to gather around a point: to concentrate troops near an objective; to concentrate one's strength. Condense implies increasing the compactness, or thickening the consistency of a homogeneous mass: to condense milk. It is also used to refer to the reducing in length of a book or the like. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for contract
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At any rate, she has less freedom and more obligations under her contract.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • It then begins to shrink and contract with the greatest uniformity.

  • The contract, however, seems not to have been carried out by the composer.

    Handel Edward J. Dent
  • I might give you a thousand for a contract, an' losin' and winnin' mounts when you had a leg up.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • You sign this contract, which is exactly like all the others we use, and I'll hand over your check.

    Dust Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius
British Dictionary definitions for contract


verb (kənˈtrækt)
to make or become smaller, narrower, shorter, etc: metals contract as the temperature is reduced
(ˈkɒntrækt), when intr, sometimes foll by for; when tr, may take an infinitive. to enter into an agreement with (a person, company, etc) to deliver (goods or services) or to do (something) on mutually agreed and binding terms, often in writing
to draw or be drawn together; coalesce or cause to coalesce
(transitive) to acquire, incur, or become affected by (a disease, liability, debt, etc)
(transitive) to shorten (a word or phrase) by the omission of letters or syllables, usually indicated in writing by an apostrophe
(phonetics) to unite (two vowels) or (of two vowels) to be united within a word or at a word boundary so that a new long vowel or diphthong is formed
(transitive) to wrinkle or draw together (the brow or a muscle)
(transitive) to arrange (a marriage) for; betroth
noun (ˈkɒntrækt)
a formal agreement between two or more parties
a document that states the terms of such an agreement
the branch of law treating of contracts
marriage considered as a formal agreement
  1. (in the bidding sequence before play) the highest bid, which determines trumps and the number of tricks one side must try to make
  2. the number and suit of these tricks
  1. a criminal agreement to kill a particular person in return for an agreed sum of money
  2. (as modifier): a contract killing
Derived Forms
contractible, adjective
contractibly, adverb
Word Origin
C16: from Latin contractus agreement, something drawn up, from contrahere to draw together, from trahere to draw
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for contract

late 14c., "make narrow, draw together;" early 15c. "make an agreement;" from Middle French contracter, from Latin contractus, past participle of contrahere "to draw together, combine, make an agreement" (see contract (n.)). Related: Contracted; contracting.


early 14c., from Old French contract (Modern French contrat), from Latin contractus "a contract, agreement," from past participle of contrahere "to draw together," metaphorically, "to make a bargain," from com- "together" (see com-) + trahere "to draw" (see tract (n.1)). U.S. underworld sense of "arrangement to kill someone" first recorded 1940.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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contract in Medicine

contract con·tract (kən-trākt', kŏn'trākt')
v. con·tract·ed, con·tract·ing, con·tracts

  1. To reduce in size by drawing together.

  2. To become reduced in size by or as if by being drawn together, as the pupil of the eye.

  3. To acquire or incur by contagion or infection.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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contract in Culture

contract definition

A legally binding agreement between two or more parties.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for contract



  1. An arrangement to have someone murdered by a professional killer: The word is there's a contract out for Taffy Taylor (1930s+)
  2. Any illegal or unethical arrangement: contract, any favor one policeman says he'll do for another (1950s+ Police)

Related Terms

sweetheart contract

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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