View synonyms for contract


[ noun adjective verb kon-trakt; verb kuhn-trakt ]


  1. an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified.
  2. an agreement enforceable by law.
  3. the written form of an agreement enforceable by law.
  4. the division of law dealing with contracts.
  5. 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.
  6. (in auction or contract bridge)
    1. a commitment by the declarer and their partner to take six tricks plus the number specified by the final bid made.
    2. the final bid that specifies the number of tricks to which players must commit.
    3. the number of tricks to which players are committed, plus six.
  7. the formal agreement of marriage; betrothal.
  8. 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.

    Synonyms: shrink, shrivel, narrow, lessen, shorten, reduce

    Antonyms: expand

  2. to shorten (a word, phrase, etc.) by combining or omitting some of its elements:

    Contracting “do not” yields “don't.”

  3. to get or acquire, as by exposure to something contagious:

    I contracted malaria but didn't recognize the symptoms at first.

  4. to incur, as a liability or obligation:

    He was very extravagant at college, and contracted many debts.

  5. to settle or establish by agreement:

    Bismarck contracted an alliance with Austria to counteract Russian designs in Eastern Europe.

  6. to assign (a job, work, project, etc.) by contract:

    The publisher contracted the artwork.

  7. to enter into an agreement with:

    We contracted a freelancer to do the editing.

  8. to enter into (friendship, acquaintance, etc.).
  9. to betroth.
  10. 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 phrase

  1. to hire an outside contractor to produce or do.



  1. to make or become smaller, narrower, shorter, etc

    metals contract as the temperature is reduced

  2. ˈkɒntrækt whenintr, 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
  3. to draw or be drawn together; coalesce or cause to coalesce
  4. tr to acquire, incur, or become affected by (a disease, liability, debt, etc)
  5. tr to shorten (a word or phrase) by the omission of letters or syllables, usually indicated in writing by an apostrophe
  6. 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
  7. tr to wrinkle or draw together (the brow or a muscle)
  8. 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
  3. the branch of law treating of contracts
  4. marriage considered as a formal agreement
  5. bridge
    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
  6. slang.
    1. a criminal agreement to kill a particular person in return for an agreed sum of money
    2. ( as modifier )

      a contract killing


  1. A legally binding agreement between two or more parties.

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Derived Forms

  • conˈtractible, adjective
  • conˈtractibly, adverb

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Other Words From

  • con·tract·ee [kon-trak-, tee], noun
  • con·tract·i·ble adjective
  • con·tract·i·bil·i·ty [k, uh, n-trak-t, uh, -, bil, -i-tee], 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)

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Word History and Origins

Origin of contract1

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

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Word History and Origins

Origin of contract1

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

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Idioms and Phrases

  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.

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Synonym Study

See agreement. 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.

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Example Sentences

When that contract expired, the Secret Service signed another for 16 more nights, until April 15, according to copies of the contracts released by the Secret Service.

From revised search warrant protocols to contracting social workers, the policy changes are a start but could go much further.

From Vox

They don’t have a ton of room to maneuver, either, with the contracts they’re still on the hook for.

The relatively small Air Force contracts aren’t for the actual delivery of a finished supersonic aircraft.

This is a questionable claim, because EU privacy law allows data transfers to anywhere as long as they are “necessary” to fulfill the contract between the user and provider—and the processing of emails is pretty fundamental for an email service.

From Fortune

Michigan supposedly offered 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh a $42 million contract, which would him the highest-paid coach in the NCAA.

A 1907 contract leases the plot of land to the Belgika corporation for five years, but it stayed for much longer.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report says they secured a contract with the CIA in 2006 valued “in excess of $180 million.”

I knew only that the hit was commissioned; the man who took the contract was a specialist.

Meanwhile, Marino promises “radical changes” and vows to check every contract the city has—to see if they are valid.

But for the most part property, contract and the coercive state were fundamental assumptions with the classicists.

Though a minor cannot make such a contract, yet if property comes into his possession he must exercise proper care of it.

It was claimed, as we have seen, that under free contract a man was paid what he earned and no law could make it more.

The outlines of the contract they have sent me down, which I think is on very fair terms.

He can act only as the agent of the other party when the terms of the contract are settled and he is instructed to finish it.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.