Definition of contingency in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /kənˈtinjənsē/

noun (plural contingencies)

1A future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty: a detailed contract that attempts to provide for all possible contingencies
More example sentences
  • Christmas is looming ever closer, and this morning on the radio warnings were going out to holiday campers, to have a contingency for possible evacuations, in the event of fire.
  • Furthermore, you know that the expected lifetime of the product is uncertain and depends upon future contingencies, including your own way of life, your heartbeat.
  • Did the Bali tragedy and its impact on the hospital and the unit and so on, sort of set up a framework for future contingencies?
eventuality, (chance) event, incident, happening, occurrence, juncture, possibility, fortuity, accident, chance, emergency
1.1A provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance: a contingency reserve
More example sentences
  • The Chinese government only has strategic oil reserve contingencies of 50 million barrels of oil - just 25 days supply.
  • There had been no provision for contingencies and it was assumed that design fees and site works were in the original library estimates.
  • And we're all actively planning contingencies right now and preparing for if this storm even brushes close to New Orleans.
1.2An incidental expense: allow an extra fifteen percent in the budget for contingencies
More example sentences
  • This problem could be largely solved with emergency funds from the federal budget - a contingency provided for by the architects of the policy.
  • Running an Internet cafe at his native place with two like-minded youngsters, Thamby has his own funds for meeting contingency expenses.
  • We recommended this be done through balanced budgets and the application of any unused contingencies to the debt.
1.3The absence of certainty in events: the island’s public affairs can be invaded by contingency
More example sentences
  • The other is indignation at some historians' recourse to contingency and the counterfactual to unsettle old certainties.
  • This hypothesis is also consistent with evidence that suggests that individuals use their knowledge to guide the selection of events to be used in the computation of contingency.
  • The event was briefed, and every contingency was mapped out.
1.4 Philosophy The absence of necessity; the fact of being so without having to be so.
Example sentences
  • This may provide a way beyond the generalised extremes of homogeneity and heterogeneity in analysing the necessity and contingency in organisational forms of capital.
  • But since contingency and necessity cannot coincide, the moving body has to be different from the principle or source of motion.
  • If biology is ruled by contingency rather than necessity then why do we find duplicated designs?


Mid 16th century (in the philosophical sense): from late Latin contingentia (in its medieval Latin sense 'circumstance'), from contingere 'befall' (see contingent).

Words that rhyme with contingency

astringency, stringency

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: con·tin·gen·cy

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.