[ kon-takt ]
See synonyms for: contactcontactedcontactingcontacts on

  1. the act or state of touching; a touching or meeting, as of two things or people.

  2. immediate proximity or association.

  1. an acquaintance, colleague, or relative through whom a person can gain access to information, favors, influential people, and the like.

  2. Electricity. a junction of electric conductors, usually metal, that controls current flow, often completing or interrupting a circuit.

  3. Geology. the interface, generally a planar surface, between strata that differ in lithology or age.

  4. Medicine/Medical. a person who has lately been exposed to an infected person.

  5. Sociology. a condition in which two or more individuals or groups are placed in communication with each other.: Compare categoric contact, primary contact, secondary contact, sympathetic contact.

verb (used with object)
  1. to put or bring into contact.

  2. to communicate with: We'll contact you by mail or telephone.

verb (used without object)
  1. to enter into or be in contact.

  1. involving or produced by touching or proximity: contact allergy.

Origin of contact

First recorded in 1620–30; from Latin contāctus “a touch,” noun use of past participle of contingere “to touch together, each other, on all sides,” from con- con- + -tingere, combining form of tangere “to touch”; cf. attain, tango

usage note For contact

Many verbs in English have derived from nouns. One can head an organization or toe the mark; butter the bread or bread the cutlet. Hence, grammatically at least, there is no historical justification for the once frequently heard criticism of contact used as a verb meaning “to communicate with”: The managing editor contacted each reporter personally. Despite the earlier objections to it and probably largely because there is no other one-word verb in the language to express the same idea, this use of contact has become standard in all types of speech and writing. Contact as a noun meaning “a person through whom one can gain access to information and the like” is also standard: My contact at the embassy says that the coup has been successful.

Other words from contact

  • con·tac·tu·al [kon-tak-choo-uhl], /kɒnˈtæk tʃu əl/, adjective
  • con·tac·tu·al·ly, adverb
  • non·con·tact, noun, adjective
  • re·con·tact, noun, verb
  • un·con·tact·ed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use contact in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for contact


  1. the act or state of touching physically

  2. the state or fact of close association or communication (esp in the phrases in contact, make contact)

    • a junction of two or more electrical conductors

    • the part of the conductors that makes the junction

    • the part of an electrical device to which such connections are made

  1. an acquaintance, esp one who might be useful in business, as a means of introduction, etc

  2. any person who has been exposed to a contagious disease

  3. photog See contact print

  4. (usually plural) an informal name for contact lens

  5. (modifier) of or relating to irritation or inflammation of the skin caused by touching the causative agent: contact dermatitis

  6. (modifier) denoting an insecticide or herbicide that kills on contact, rather than after ingestion or absorption

  7. (modifier) of or maintaining contact

  8. (modifier) requiring or involving (physical) contact: the contact sport of boxing

verb(ˈkɒntækt, kənˈtækt)
  1. (when intr, often foll by with) to put, come, or be in association, touch, or communication

  1. aeronautics (formerly) a call made by the pilot to indicate that an aircraft's ignition is switched on and that the engine is ready for starting by swinging the propeller

Origin of contact

C17: from Latin contactus, from contingere to touch on all sides, pollute, from tangere to touch

Derived forms of contact

  • contactual (kɒnˈtæktjʊəl), adjective
  • contactually, adverb

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

Scientific definitions for contact


[ kŏntăkt′ ]

    • A connection between two conductors that allows an electric current to flow.

    • A part or device that makes or breaks a connection in an electrical circuit.

  1. Geology The place where two different types of rock, or rocks of different ages, come together.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.