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contraband Syllabification: con·tra·band
Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrəˌband/

Definition of contraband in English:


1Goods that have been imported or exported illegally: the police looked for drugs, guns, and other contraband
More example sentences
  • It means that if a policeman tries to use illegally obtained contraband as evidence to charge a suspect, the court will readily strike down such illicit evidence.
  • On the contrary, the moment a book becomes illegal contraband it is suddenly all the more desirable.
  • With legal imports in 1998 of $15 billion, contraband accounted for 25 percent of all imports.
1.1Trade in smuggled goods: the government has declared a nationwide war on contraband
More example sentences
  • It survived on contraband and piracy, trading cattle, hides, sugar, tobacco, and foodstuffs directly with other nations.
  • With caves, coves and beaches round the island, there was many a hiding place for smugglers, and contraband was a way of life on Portland - with even the man employed by the government to put a stop to the practice deeply involved.
  • But like drugs, and alcohol during Prohibition, black-market contraband always provides a means to acquire whatever is the forbidden fruit of the moment.
smuggling, illegal traffic, black marketeering, bootlegging;
1.2 (also contraband of war) Goods forbidden to be supplied by neutrals to those engaged in war.
Example sentences
  • Lincoln also was the first Commander-in-Chief to declare medicines contraband of war.
  • International law has not precisely defined all classes of goods that are contraband of war per se.
  • Neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under enemy's flag.
1.3(During the US Civil War) a black slave who escaped or was transported across Union lines.
Example sentences
  • They worked only at night, riding from plantation to plantation, stopping black people, searching their homes for contraband and whipping any slave caught traveling without a written pass.
  • In May 1861, General Benjamin F. Butler declared slaves who fled to the Union army headquartered at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, to be contraband of war - that is, enemy property open to confiscation by Union troops.


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1Imported or exported illegally, either in defiance of a total ban or without payment of duty: contraband drug shipments
More example sentences
  • He has been charged with attempting to smuggle contraband drugs.
  • Many contraband items such as drugs are smuggled in without being declared even though it is common knowledge that the drugs trade exists.
  • This lust for profit means they will trade in anything that makes money: drugs, contraband goods, even illegal immigrants.
smuggled, black-market, bootleg, under the counter, illegal, illicit, unlawful;
prohibited, banned, proscribed, forbidden
informal hot
1.1Relating to traffic in illegal goods: the contraband market
More example sentences
  • We will take the fight to all those involved in piracy and contraband trafficking.
  • Other government figures said the dispatch of soldiers to the border was to curb contraband traffic in the region.
  • The intent, apparently, was to patrol an area that was known for contraband trafficking, but it was an undocumented mission.


Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrəˌbandəst/
Example sentences
  • He suggested that they be sent back to Africa, an idea which the contrabandists fiercely rejected.
  • Meanwhile, the military government looked the other way as the merchants and contrabandists made thousands.
  • In this case inevitably our small country becomes a base for drug smugglers, arms contrabandists and terrorists of all stripes.


Late 16th century: from Spanish contrabanda, from Italian contrabando, from contra- 'against' + bando 'proclamation, ban'.

  • This is from Spanish contrabanda ‘smuggling’, adopted from Italian contrabando ‘unlawful dealing’, from contra- ‘against’ and bando ‘proclamation, ban’.

Definition of contraband in:
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