[ kon-truh-band ]
/ ˈkɒn trəˌbænd /


anything prohibited by law from being imported or exported.
goods imported or exported illegally.
illegal or prohibited trade; smuggling.
International Law. contraband of war.
(during the American Civil War) a black slave who escaped to or was brought within the Union lines.


prohibited from export or import.

Origin of contraband

1520–30; earlier contrabanda < Spanish < Italian contrabando (now contrabbando), equivalent to contra contra1 + Medieval Latin bandum, variant of bannum ban2
Related formsnon·con·tra·band, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for contraband

British Dictionary definitions for contraband


/ (ˈkɒntrəˌbænd) /


  1. goods that are prohibited by law from being exported or imported
  2. illegally imported or exported goods
illegal traffic in such goods; smuggling
Also called: contraband of war international law goods that a neutral country may not supply to a belligerent
(during the American Civil War) a Black slave captured by the Union forces or one who escaped to the Union lines


(of goods)
  1. forbidden by law from being imported or exported
  2. illegally imported or exported
Derived Formscontrabandist, noun

Word Origin for contraband

C16: from Spanish contrabanda, from Italian contrabando (modern contrabbando), from Medieval Latin contrabannum, from contra- + bannum ban, of Germanic origin
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 contraband



1520s, "smuggling;" 1590s, "smuggled goods;" from Middle French contrebande "a smuggling," from older Italian contrabando (modern contrabbando) "unlawful dealing," from Latin contra "against" (see contra) + Medieval Latin bannum, from Frankish *ban "a command" or some other Germanic source (see ban (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for contraband


Goods illegally transported across borders to avoid the payment of taxes.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.