Definition of contract in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkɒntrakt/
1A written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law: he has just signed a contract keeping him with the club [mass noun]: much of the produce is grown under contract
More example sentences
  • Within 28 days of signing your contract of employment you should have received a copy of the disciplinary procedure.
  • Every employee must be given a contract of employment.
  • When an agreement is reached with the owner, a private contract is written and signed.
agreement, commitment, arrangement, settlement, undertaking, understanding, compact, covenant, pact, bond;
deal, bargain;
treaty, concordat, convention, entente;
Commerce  account;
Law  indenture
rare engagement
1.1 [mass noun] The branch of law concerned with the making and observation of contracts: the law of contract
More example sentences
  • Most of these cases would today be regarded as falling under the law of contract, not tort.
  • The validity of the contracts and of the acts done was governed entirely by the law of contract, not by the statutes.
  • That relationship is governed by the ordinary rules of the law of contract.
1.2 informal An arrangement for someone to be killed by a hired assassin: smuggling bosses routinely put out contracts on witnesses
More example sentences
  • When he can't succeed in killing himself, he hires a contract killer to carry out the job for him.
  • For example, a serial killer and a contract killer both kill lots of people, but the crimes are essentially different.
  • Then a solution presents itself: why not hire a contract killer?
1.3 Bridge The declarer’s undertaking to win the number of tricks bid with a stated suit as trumps: South can make the contract with correct play
More example sentences
  • The team that won the auction but did not make enough tricks to make the contract gets the score of the lower scoring team.
  • When bidding a contract with a minor suit as trumps, the suit is not mentioned.
  • After a contract on the bid is made, the declarer decides whether to set the rank for that hand high or low.
1.4 dated A formal agreement to marry: the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed
More example sentences
  • They both meet each other and make a contract to marry.
  • A contract of marriage may be made through agents acting ad hoc on behalf of the bride and bridegroom themselves, or of their guardians.
  • After this outburst, the Emperor applied to be released from his contract to wed the Princess Mary, who was still an infant.


Pronunciation: /kənˈtrakt/
1 [no object] Decrease in size, number, or range: glass contracts as it cools
More example sentences
  • In the case of the Sun or some similar large object, as it contracts there is a decrease in its gravitational energy because the composite matter is moving closer to the middle, and that energy has to go somewhere.
  • The deer's range later contracted to the Ural Mountains, in modern-day Russia, which separate Europe from Asia.
  • On cooling it contracts to a smaller dimension, thus reducing the area of contact and allowing oxide to form at the interface.
shrink, get smaller, become smaller;
decrease, diminish, reduce, dwindle, decline, shrivel
1.1(Of a muscle) become shorter and tighter in order to effect movement of part of the body: the heart contracts about seventy times a minute [with object]: exhale and slowly contract your abdominal muscles
More example sentences
  • This stimulation causes electrical activity in the muscle, which in turn causes the muscle to contract or tighten.
  • It increases the heart rate, makes muscles contract more forcefully and enhances the general state of alertness.
  • For example, as an individual lands from a jump, the quadriceps muscle contracts, protecting the knee.
tighten, become/make tighter, tense, flex, constrict, draw in, become/make narrower, narrow
wrinkle, knit, crease, corrugate;
purse, pucker
1.2 [with object] Shorten (a word or phrase) by combination or elision: these sources were called quasistellar objects, which was soon contracted to quasar
More example sentences
  • I haven't checked the audio to see whether ‘is’ was contracted or not in those examples.
  • Incidentally, Hocus Pocus was itself contracted during the eighteenth century into the word ‘Hoax.’
  • The various sources consulted differ in its further evolution; some say the word was contracted further to aan't, others say an't (pronounced ahnt).
shorten, abbreviate, cut, reduce, abridge, truncate
2 [no object] Enter into a formal and legally binding agreement: the local authority will contract with a wide range of agencies to provide services
More example sentences
  • Now with open access, the mining companies wish to handle the traffics themselves, or contract with third parties.
  • Vendors contract with one of nine independent laboratory-testing facilities.
  • He told how they contract with area farmers to guarantee a steady supply.
undertake, pledge, promise, covenant, commit oneself, engage;
agree, enter into an agreement, reach an agreement, make a deal, negotiate a deal
2.1 (contract in/into) British Choose to be involved in (a scheme): politically committed members contract into paying the levy
More example sentences
  • The new changes serve to increase flexibility and pastoral support for students contracted into the scheme.
2.2 (contract out) British Choose to withdraw from or not become involved in a scheme: plans to encourage people to contract out of the pension scheme
More example sentences
  • They gave us tax relief on the money going in, and they took my National Insurance Contributions, while encouraging pension schemes to contract out of Serps.
  • About six million people were encouraged to contract out of the state scheme by the carrot of generous contracting out rebates.
  • It would be possible to contract out into approved occupational schemes.
opt out, leave, exclude oneself, withdraw, pull out, exit
2.3Secure specified rights or undertake specified obligations in a formal and legally binding agreement: a buyer may contract for the right to withhold payment [with infinitive]: the paper had contracted to publish extracts from the diaries
More example sentences
  • I mean, it's just not on, it's not the real world, and when you contract for something you expect to pay that price, and you expect to get it on time.
  • That is, you could contract for how many calls you would receive, and what kind of calls.
  • In October 1986 the government introduced the Goods and Services Tax charged on almost everything you buy or contract for.
2.4 [with object and infinitive] Impose an obligation on (someone) to do something by means of a formal agreement: health authorities contract a hospital to treat a specific number of patients
More example sentences
  • If a local authority contracts a builder to construct a certain amount of houses they must pay the full cost not just a deposit.
  • Channel Seven contracted an outside lawyer to work up a draft agreement and has refused to negotiate on anything falling outside its scope.
  • He complained about the wild dogs and the National Parks & Wildlife Service contracted a local man to trap and shoot the dogs.
2.5 [with object] (contract something out) Arrange for work to be done by another organization: local authorities will have to contract out waste management
More example sentences
  • At my workplace, food and housekeeping services have been contracted out to subsidiaries of Compass Group, a British multinational corporation.
  • Other courses have been contracted out to private suppliers.
  • The university proposed that current staff positions could be contracted out with four months' notice, a proposal which made the staff feel threatened.
subcontract, outsource, farm out, assign to others
2.6 [with object] Formally enter into (a marriage): kings obtained dispensations to enable them to contract politically advantageous matches
More example sentences
  • The infatuated prince subsequently caused an international incident by contracting a bigamous marriage with her.
  • In the countryside, on the contrary, more hands were needed to work the fields in grain-growing regions, and males contracted marriages at younger ages to increase the rural labour supply.
  • The queen's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, married in a civil ceremony in Vienna, but no member of the royal family has ever contracted a civil marriage in Britain.
2.7 [with object] Enter into (a friendship or other relationship): the patterns of social relationships contracted by men and women differ
More example sentences
  • How could Heidi have been aware that she was contracting marriage - the requirement for valid consent - if she thought that she was merely contracting an engagement?
  • However, the ease with which a women can contract sexual liaisons does not directly translate into a socially sanctioned pregnancy and birth.
  • To contract a friendship, I'll have to have an idea what I think is important in a friendship.
3 [with object] Catch or develop (a disease or infectious agent): three people contracted a killer virus
More example sentences
  • If you think you've contracted an infectious disease, contact your doctor.
  • Two other patients are critically ill after contracting the disease through infected organs from the donor.
  • His early education was restricted by severe asthma and he contracted tuberculosis when he started medical school.
develop, catch, get, pick up, come down with, become infected with, fall ill with, be taken ill with, be struck down with, be stricken with, succumb to;
British  go down with
informal take ill with
North American informal take sick with
4 [with object] Become liable to pay (a debt): he contracted a debt of £3,300
More example sentences
  • As stated earlier, much of the debt was contracted by undemocratic governments and oppressive regimes.
  • He says that he contracted the debt on behalf of the ruling party.
  • How unjust to do so by pillaging the church, an institution that was neither responsible for contracting the debt nor had benefited from the deficit expenditures.
incur, become liable to pay, acquire, fall into;
run up



Example sentences
  • You should see who the contractors and contractees really are most of the time.
  • The contracts are said to avoid the need for legal action and can encourage the contractee to change his or her behaviour by facing up to what they have done.
  • No apparent attempt was made to identify or exclude industry consultants, contractees, or grantees.


Pronunciation: /kənˈtraktɪv/
Example sentences
  • We began by having a heated discussion on the use of apostrophes and whether the contractive use and the possessive use can be combined.
  • While the action of Jupiter and Saturn may seem contradictory, they represent a balance between the continually expansive and contractive forces that naturally dance in this dualistic universe.
  • Like the previous budgets of the past seven years, the spending plan is austere and is even likely to have a contractive effect on the economy.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin contractus, from contract- 'drawn together, tightened', from the verb contrahere, from con- 'together' + trahere 'draw'.

  • train from Middle English:

    Before railways were invented in the early 19th century, train followed a different track. Early senses included ‘a trailing part of a robe’ and ‘a retinue’, which gave rise to ‘a line of travelling people or vehicles’, and later ‘a connected series of things’, as in train of thought. To train could mean ‘to cause a plant to grow in a desired shape’, which was the basis of the sense ‘to instruct’. The word is from Latin trahere ‘to pull, draw’, and so is related to word such as trace (Middle English) originally a path someone is drawn along, trail (Middle English) originally in the sense ‘to tow’, tractor (late 18th century) ‘something that pulls', contract (Middle English) ‘draw together’, and extract (Late Middle English) ‘draw out’. Boys in particular have practised the hobby of trainspotting under that name since the late 1950s. Others ridicule this hobby and in Britain in the 1980s trainspotter, like anorak, became a derogatory term for an obsessive follower of any minority interest. Irvine Welsh's 1993 novel Trainspotting gave a high profile to the term. The title refers to an episode in which two heroin addicts go to a disused railway station in Edinburgh and meet an old drunk in a disused railway station who asks them if they are trainspotting. There are also other overtones from the language of drugs—track is an addicts' term for a vein, mainlining [1930s] for injecting a drug intravenously, and train for a drug dealer. Trainers were originally training shoes, soft shoes without spikes or studs worn by athletes or sports players for training rather than the sport itself. The short form began to replace the longer one in the late 1970s.

Words that rhyme with contract

abreact, abstract, act, attract, bract, compact, counteract, diffract, enact, exact, extract, fact, humpbacked, impact, interact, matter-of-fact, pact, protract, redact, refract, retroact, subcontract, subtract, tact, tract, transact, unbacked, underact, untracked

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: con|tract

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