[ kuhn-trak-shuhn ]
See synonyms for: contractioncontractions on

  1. an act or instance of contracting or the quality or state of being contracted: The contraction of the ship’s metal fastenings and consequent snapping of the wood caused cracking sounds during the cold night.

  2. a shortened form of a word or group of words, with the omitted letters often replaced in written English by an apostrophe, as e'er for ever, isn't for is not, I'd for I would.

  1. Physiology.

    • the thickening and shortening of a muscle: Myosin is a protein in muscles, working together with actin to produce muscle contraction.

    • one in an often rhythmic series of such muscular changes, especially in the wall of the uterus during labor: When I got to the hospital, my labor was in full force with only 10 seconds between contractions.

  2. a restriction or withdrawal, as of currency or of funds available as call money.

  3. a decrease in economic and industrial activity (opposed to expansion): The contraction that became the Great Depression began in the United States and spread around the globe.

Origin of contraction

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English, from Old French, from Latin contractiōn-, stem of contractiō, equivalent to contract(us) “drawn together, restricted,” past participle of contrahere + -iōn- noun suffix; see contract, -ion

usage note For contraction

Contractions such as isn't, couldn't, can't, weren't, he'll, they're occur chiefly, although not exclusively, in informal speech and writing. They are common in personal letters, business letters, journalism, and fiction; they are rare in scientific and scholarly writing. Contractions occur in formal writing mainly as representations of speech.

Other words from contraction

  • con·trac·tion·al, adjective
  • non·con·trac·tion, noun
  • o·ver·con·trac·tion, noun
  • re·con·trac·tion, noun

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

How to use contraction in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for contraction


/ (kənˈtrækʃən) /

  1. an instance of contracting or the state of being contracted

  2. physiol any normal shortening or tensing of an organ or part, esp of a muscle, e.g. during childbirth

  1. pathol any abnormal tightening or shrinking of an organ or part

  2. a shortening of a word or group of words, often marked in written English by an apostrophe: I've come for I have come

Derived forms of contraction

  • contractive, adjective
  • contractively, adverb
  • contractiveness, noun

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 contraction


[ kən-trăkshən ]

  1. The shortening and thickening of a muscle for the purpose of exerting force on or causing movement of a body part. See more at muscle.

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

Cultural definitions for contraction


A word produced by running two or more words together and leaving out some of the letters or sounds. For example, isn't is a contraction of is not.

Notes for contraction

An apostrophe is generally used in contractions to show where letters or sounds have been left out.

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.