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verb (used without object)
  1. to draw back within itself or oneself, fold up, or the like, or to be capable of doing this: The blade retracts.

Origin of retract

1400–50; late Middle English retracten < Latin retractus, past participle of retrahere to draw back, equivalent to re- re- + tractus (see tract1)


verb (used with object)
  1. to withdraw (a statement, opinion, etc.) as inaccurate or unjustified, especially formally or explicitly; take back.
  2. to withdraw or revoke (a decree, promise, etc.).
verb (used without object)
  1. to draw or shrink back.
  2. to withdraw a promise, vow, etc.
  3. to make a disavowal of a statement, opinion, etc.; recant.

Origin of retract

1535–45; < Latin retractāre to reconsider, withdraw, equivalent to re- re- + tractāre to drag, pull, take in hand (frequentative of trahere to pull)
Related formsre·tract·a·ble, re·tract·i·ble, adjectivere·tract·a·bil·i·ty, re·tract·i·bil·i·ty, nounre·trac·ta·tion [ree-trak-tey-shuhn] /ˌri trækˈteɪ ʃən/, nounun·re·tract·a·ble, adjective

Synonyms for retract

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for retract

Contemporary Examples of retract

Historical Examples of retract

British Dictionary definitions for retract


  1. (tr) to draw in (a part or appendage)a snail can retract its horns; to retract the landing gear of an aircraft
  2. to withdraw (a statement, opinion, charge, etc) as invalid or unjustified
  3. to go back on (a promise or agreement)
  4. (intr) to shrink back, as in fear
  5. phonetics to modify the articulation of (a vowel) by bringing the tongue back away from the lips
Derived Formsretractable or retractible, adjectiveretractability or retractibility, nounretractation (ˌriːtrækˈteɪʃən), nounretractive, adjective

Word Origin for retract

C16: from Latin retractāre to withdraw, from tractāre to pull, from trahere to drag
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 retract

early 15c., "to draw (something) back," from Old French retracter (14c.) and directly from Latin retractus, past participle of retrahere "to draw back" (see retraction). Sense of "to revoke, recant, take back" is attested from 1540s, probably a back-formation from retraction. Related: Retracted; retracting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper