Share this entry

retract Syllabification: re·tract
Pronunciation: /rəˈtrakt/

Definition of retract in English:


1Draw or be drawn back or back in: [with object]: she retracted her hand as if she’d been burned [no object]: the tentacle retracted quickly
More example sentences
  • She groaned distastefully, retracting her hand back and using it to pull herself into a sitting position.
  • Return to the uptight position, then squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the handles into your abdomen while retracting your shoulders and keeping your arms close to your body.
  • Penderan grins quietly to himself, Riley glances up momentarily, but retracts her attention as soon as he feels it upon him - if even only softly.
pull in, draw in, pull back
1.1 [with object] Withdraw (a statement or accusation) as untrue or unjustified: he retracted his allegations
More example sentences
  • They then retracted their statement and said that some of the injuries were old.
  • By retracting his confession he lost the opportunity of being considered for parole.
  • He said: "I do not retract what I have put in writing."
take back, withdraw, recant, disavow, disclaim, repudiate, renounce, reverse, revoke, rescind, go back on, backtrack on, unsay
formal abjure
1.2 [with object] Withdraw or go back on (an undertaking or promise): the parish council was forced to retract a previous resolution
More example sentences
  • The seller, John Leitch, did send in a link to the auction page earlier this morning showing £110,000 had been bid and the reserve met - but this bid was later retracted.
  • Your Honours, I made some concessions either explicit or implicit on the last occasion which I wish to retract.
  • Several weeks later, Pioneer retracted its decision, allegedly due to concern about unfavorable publicity and pressure from its labor union.


Late Middle English: from Latin retract- 'drawn back', from the verb retrahere (from re- 'back' + trahere 'drag'); the senses 'withdraw (a statement)' and 'go back on' via Old French from retractare 'reconsider' (based on trahere 'drag').

  • abstract from Middle English:

    The Latin source of abstract, meant literally ‘drawn away’ and is from abstrahere, from the elements ab- ‘from’ and trahere ‘draw off’. The use in art dates from the mid 19th century. Trahere is found in many English words including: attract (Late Middle English) with ad ‘to’; portrait (mid 16th century), something drawn; protract (mid 16th century) with pro ‘out’; retract (Late Middle English) and retreat (Late Middle English) both drawing back; and words listed at train.



Example sentences
  • Most cats have feet, obviously, with retractable claws.
  • In the eighteenth century folding furniture became fashionable, and designers vied with each other to invent furniture with adjustable, movable, and retractable parts.
  • Externally, hundreds of metres of optic fibres and irrigation pipes bring life and light to the landscaped terraces, which sit beneath the retractable wing-like canopies.


Pronunciation: /rəˈtrakSH(ə)n/
Example sentences
  • I apologize for any contrary implication, and I hereby make a complete retraction.
  • The 1790s, which saw doubt caused by the delay and then the retraction of the promise to waive the state's rights to royal oaks, were a turning point for the wealthier peasantry.
  • Raising interest rates in a period of expansion puts a crimp on growth; lowering rates during a time of retraction will not get a soul to borrow simply for the sake of borrowing.


Example sentences
  • It would require a sudden transformation of forelimbs from a retractive, terrestrial, weight-bearing stroke to a depressive, protractive, aerial, thrust-generating stroke.
  • Elastic fibers and alveolar myofibroblasts localize to ends and bends where retractive forces develop during inspiration, but not at junctions, which are reinforced with collagen fibers.
  • Propulsive and retractive forces are each capable of damaging the nerves, but significant damage is most likely to occur when these forces are combined.

Definition of retract in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day confidant
Pronunciation: ˈkɒnfɪdant
a person with whom one shares a secret...