[ noun, adjective, and usually for verb 14-16, 21, 22 kon-trakt; otherwise verb kuhn-trakt ]
See synonyms for: contractcontractedcontractingcontracts on

  1. an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.

  2. an agreement enforceable by law.

  1. the written form of an agreement enforceable by law.

  2. the division of law dealing with contracts.

  3. 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.

  4. (in auction or contract bridge)

    • a commitment by the declarer and their partner to take six tricks plus the number specified by the final bid made.

    • the final bid that specifies the number of tricks to which players must commit.

    • the number of tricks to which players are committed, plus six.

  5. the formal agreement of marriage; betrothal.

  6. Slang. an arrangement for a hired assassin to kill a specific person.

  1. under an agreement enforceable by law; governed or arranged by special legal agreement: As a contract carrier with us, you'll have access to more loads than with any other provider in North America.

verb (used with object)
  1. to draw together; make shorter, thinner, narrower, etc.: In order to contract a muscle, the opposite muscle group has to be relaxed.

  2. to shorten (a word, phrase, etc.) by combining or omitting some of its elements: Contracting “do not” yields “don't.”

  1. to get or acquire, as by exposure to something contagious: I contracted malaria but didn't recognize the symptoms at first.

  2. to incur, as a liability or obligation: He was very extravagant at college, and contracted many debts.

  3. to settle or establish by agreement: Bismarck contracted an alliance with Austria to counteract Russian designs in Eastern Europe.

  4. to assign (a job, work, project, etc.) by contract: The publisher contracted the artwork.

  5. to enter into an agreement with:We contracted a freelancer to do the editing.

  6. to enter into (friendship, acquaintance, etc.).

  7. to betroth.

  8. to wrinkle: to contract the brows.

verb (used without object)
  1. to become reduced in length, width, thickness, etc., by drawing together; become smaller: The pupils of his eyes contracted in the light.

  2. to enter into an agreement: We contracted to have the books printed and bound by Willow Press.

Verb Phrases
  1. contract out, to hire an outside contractor to produce or do.

Idioms about contract

  1. 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

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English noun contract, contrait, from Old French, from Latin contractus “undertaking a transaction, agreement” (equivalent to contrac-, stem of contrahere “to draw in, bring together, enter into an agreement” + -tus verbal noun suffix); the verb is from Latin contractus, past participle of contrahere

synonym study For contract

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.

Other words for contract

Opposites for contract

Other words from contract

  • con·tract·ee [kon-trak-tee], /ˌkɒn trækˈti/, noun
  • con·tract·i·ble, adjective
  • con·tract·i·bil·i·ty [kuhn-trak-tuh-bil-i-tee], /kənˌtræk təˈbɪl ɪ ti/, con·tract·i·ble·ness, noun
  • con·tract·i·bly, adverb
  • non·con·tract, adjective
  • o·ver·con·tract, verb (used with object)
  • post·con·tract, noun
  • re·con·tract, verb (used with object)

Words Nearby contract Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use contract in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for contract


  1. to make or become smaller, narrower, shorter, etc: metals contract as the temperature is reduced

  2. (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

  1. to draw or be drawn together; coalesce or cause to coalesce

  2. (tr) to acquire, incur, or become affected by (a disease, liability, debt, etc)

  3. (tr) to shorten (a word or phrase) by the omission of letters or syllables, usually indicated in writing by an apostrophe

  4. 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

  5. (tr) to wrinkle or draw together (the brow or a muscle)

  6. (tr) to arrange (a marriage) for; betroth

  1. a formal agreement between two or more parties

  2. a document that states the terms of such an agreement

  1. the branch of law treating of contracts

  2. marriage considered as a formal agreement

  3. bridge

    • (in the bidding sequence before play) the highest bid, which determines trumps and the number of tricks one side must try to make

    • the number and suit of these tricks

  4. slang

    • a criminal agreement to kill a particular person in return for an agreed sum of money

    • (as modifier): a contract killing

Origin of contract

C16: from Latin contractus agreement, something drawn up, from contrahere to draw together, from trahere to draw

Derived forms of contract

  • contractible, adjective
  • contractibly, 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

Cultural definitions for contract


A legally binding agreement between two or more parties.

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.