Origin of contact

1620–30; < Latin contāctus a touching, equivalent to contāc- < *contag-, variant stem of contingere to touch (con- con- + -tingere, combining form of tangere to touch) + -tus suffix of v. action; cf. tango, attain
Related formscon·tac·tu·al [kon-tak-choo-uh l] /kɒnˈtæk tʃu əl/, adjectivecon·tac·tu·al·ly, adverbnon·con·tact, noun, adjectivere·con·tact, noun, verbun·con·tact·ed, adjective

Usage note

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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for contacts

Contemporary Examples of contacts

Historical Examples of contacts

  • Whatever is the whole number of things, the contacts will be always one less.

  • And if to the two a third be added in due order, the number of terms will be three, and the contacts two?

  • If a "cutout" is on the board, keep its contacts smooth and clean.

  • They had to be nurtured and upheld, no matter how the contacts of life hit his own skin.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • Stay hidden at least three days before you try to make any contacts.

    The K-Factor

    Harry Harrison (AKA Henry Maxwell Dempsey)

British Dictionary definitions for contacts


noun (ˈkɒntækt)

the act or state of touching physically
the state or fact of close association or communication (esp in the phrases in contact, make contact)
  1. a junction of two or more electrical conductors
  2. the part of the conductors that makes the junction
  3. the part of an electrical device to which such connections are made
an acquaintance, esp one who might be useful in business, as a means of introduction, etc
any person who has been exposed to a contagious disease
photog See contact print
(usually plural) an informal name for contact lens
(modifier) of or relating to irritation or inflammation of the skin caused by touching the causative agentcontact dermatitis
(modifier) denoting an insecticide or herbicide that kills on contact, rather than after ingestion or absorption
(modifier) of or maintaining contact
(modifier) requiring or involving (physical) contactthe contact sport of boxing

verb (ˈkɒntækt, kənˈtækt)

(when intr, often foll by with) to put, come, or be in association, touch, or communication


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
Derived Formscontactual (kɒnˈtæktjʊəl), adjectivecontactually, adverb

Word Origin for contact

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

Word Origin and History for contacts



1620s, "action of touching," from Latin contactus "a touching," from past participle of contingere "to touch, seize," from com- "together" (see com-) + tangere "to touch" (see tangent).

Figurative sense of "connection, communication" is from 1818. As a signal to the person about to spin an aircraft propeller that the ignition is switched on, the word was in use by 1913. Contact lens is first recorded 1888; short form contact is from 1961.



1834, "put in contact," from contact (n.). Meaning "get in touch with" is 1927, American English. Related: Contacted; contacting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

contacts in Medicine




A coming together or touching, as of bodies or surfaces.
A person recently exposed to a contagious disease, usually through close association with an infected individual.


To bring, be, or come in contact.


Of, sustaining, or making contact.
Caused or transmitted by touching, as a rash.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

contacts in Science



  1. A connection between two conductors that allows an electric current to flow.
  2. A part or device that makes or breaks a connection in an electrical circuit.
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.