anything prohibited by law from being imported or exported.
goods imported or exported illegally.
illegal or prohibited trade; smuggling.
International Law. contraband of war.
(during the American Civil War) a black slave who escaped to or was brought within the Union lines.
prohibited from export or import.

1520–30; earlier contrabanda < Spanish < Italian contrabando (now contrabbando), equivalent to contra- contra-1 + Medieval Latin bandum, variant of bannum ban2

noncontraband, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
contraband (ˈkɒntrəˌbænd)
1.  a.  goods that are prohibited by law from being exported or imported
 b.  illegally imported or exported goods
2.  illegal traffic in such goods; smuggling
3.  international law Also called: contraband of war goods that a neutral country may not supply to a belligerent
4.  (during the American Civil War) a Black slave captured by the Union forces or one who escaped to the Union lines
5.  of goods
 a.  forbidden by law from being imported or exported
 b.  illegally imported or exported
[C16: from Spanish contrabanda, from Italian contrabando (modern contrabbando), from Medieval Latin contrabannum, from contra- + bannum ban, of Germanic origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1529, from M.Fr. contrebande "a smuggling," from It. contrabando, from L. contra "against" (see contra) + M.L. bannum, from Frank. *ban "a command" (see ban).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

contraband definition

Goods illegally transported across borders to avoid the payment of taxes.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in the laws of war, goods that may not be shipped to a belligerent because they serve a military purpose.

Learn more about contraband with a free trial on

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
You've probably seen dogs working security at airports, sniffing for drugs,
  bombs and contraband food.
Undercover agents arrest a suspected rooster fighter while in possession of
  contraband birds.
But armed groups may still be able to get contraband minerals into these
After the team on the ground searched the site, some of the contraband was
  destroyed with incendiary grenades and diesel fuel.
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