Definition of contingent in English:


Line breaks: con|tin|gent
Pronunciation: /kənˈtɪndʒ(ə)nt


  • 1Subject to chance: the contingent nature of the job
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    • The subject is a historically contingent effect, but to see ourselves as purely victims of historical and spatial imperatives is to limit our understanding of what it is to be human.
    • That the emotions have a history implies that subjects are historically contingent and open to the possibility that they are hence culturally determined.
    • In turn, articulating cultural practices of the subjects so constituted mark contingent collective ‘histories’ with variable new meanings.
    chance, accidental, fortuitous, possible, unforeseen, unforeseeable, unexpected, unpredicted, unpredictable, unanticipated, unlooked-for; random, haphazard
  • 1.1(Of losses, liabilities, etc.) that can be anticipated to arise if a particular event occurs.
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    • Evaluating a company's debt, acquisitions, working capital, contingent liabilities and other accounting intricacies will help spot trouble ahead.
    • So the Fund's objection was largely a technicality, because the assets and contingent liabilities of the whole of the public sector remained unchanged.
    • No deduction is given for contingent liabilities until they crystallise.
  • 3 Philosophy True by virtue of the way things in fact are and not by logical necessity: that men are living creatures is a contingent fact
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    • Thus a reference to a singular contingent fact to explain why you never succeed in killing your younger self seems not to fulfil the requirement of being an explanation.
    • That stones released near the surface of the Earth invariably travel downwards is a contingent fact that could conceivably have been otherwise.
    • For example, it is necessarily true that all ravens can be black, but it is only a matter of contingent fact that all ravens examined have been black.


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  • 1A group of people sharing a common feature, forming part of a larger group: a contingent of Japanese businessmen attending a conference
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    • The new film is likely to be set before the Second World War, and could feature a strong contingent of British stars.
    • The accompanying exhibition will feature the strongest-ever contingent of Scots games producers.
    • The rest of the piece featured the Royal contingent.
    group, party, body, band, set; deputation, delegation, mission; detachment, unit, division, squadron, section, company, corps, cohort
    informal bunch, gang
  • 1.1A body of troops or police sent to join a larger force: six warships were stationed off the coast with a contingent of 2,000 marines
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    • Courses run by other ministries and agencies train civilian and police specialists for peacekeeping contingents of multinational forces.
    • The military contingent is assisting the police by providing a secure environment so law and order can be re-established.
    • Such an army needs to be composed of three elements: garrison troops, mobile contingents, and a central rapid deployment force.



More example sentences
  • This creates a massive collage, a contingently constructed ‘dynamic referencing system in which all texts are interrelated.’
  • There is no combination of words that is equivalent to my meaning, since meaning is somehow ‘attached’ to words, and quite loosely and contingently.
  • Contingency search firms employ mid-level recruiters who fill positions in the $50,000 - $100,000 range and are usually paid contingently on what they can produce.


late Middle English (in the sense 'of uncertain occurrence'): from Latin contingere 'befall', from con- 'together with' + tangere 'to touch'. The noun sense was originally 'something happening by chance', then 'a person's share resulting from a division, a quota'; the current sense dates from the early 18th century.

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