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[kuh n-trak-shuh n] /kənˈtræk ʃən/
an act or instance of contracting.
the quality or state of being contracted.
a shortened form of a word or group of words, with the omitted letters often replaced in written English by an apostrophe, as e'er for ever, isn't for is not, dep't for department.
Physiology. the change in a muscle by which it becomes thickened and shortened.
a restriction or withdrawal, as of currency or of funds available as call money.
a decrease in economic and industrial activity (opposed to expansion).
Origin of contraction
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English (< Middle French) < Latin contractiōn- (stem of contractiō), equivalent to contract(us) drawn together, past participle of contrahere (see contract) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
contractional, adjective
noncontraction, noun
overcontraction, noun
recontraction, noun
Usage note
Contractions such as isn't, couldn't, can't, weren't, he'll, they're occur chiefly, although not exclusively, in informal speech and writing. They are common in personal letters, business letters, journalism, and fiction; they are rare in scientific and scholarly writing. Contractions occur in formal writing mainly as representations of speech. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for contraction
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This contraction is slower, and more durable and important in its results.

    The Action of Medicines in the System Frederick William Headland
  • With a contraction of heart he plunged himself into the conversation.

    Robert Elsmere Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • Without it the world monetary system would have entered phases of contraction much more readily.

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
  • And the closer they came, the greater the contraction of time aboard ship.

    Starman's Quest Robert Silverberg
  • This is done so that the cooling of the molten metal as it is added will draw the edges together by its contraction.

British Dictionary definitions for contraction


an instance of contracting or the state of being contracted
(physiol) any normal shortening or tensing of an organ or part, esp of a muscle, e.g. during childbirth
(pathol) any abnormal tightening or shrinking of an organ or part
a shortening of a word or group of words, often marked in written English by an apostrophe: I've come for I have come
Derived Forms
contractive, adjective
contractively, adverb
contractiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for contraction

late 14c., "action of making a contract" (especially of marriage), also "action of shrinking or shortening," from Old French contraction (13c.), or directly from Latin contractionem (nominative contractio), noun of action from past participle stem of contrahere (see contract (n.)). Meaning "action of acquiring (a disease) is from c.1600. Grammatical sense is from 1706; meaning "a contracted word or words" is from 1755. Contractions of the uterus in labor of childbirth attested from 1962.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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contraction in Medicine

contraction con·trac·tion (kən-trāk'shən)

  1. The act of contracting or the state of being contracted.

  2. The shortening and thickening of functioning muscle or muscle fiber.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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contraction in Science
The shortening and thickening of a muscle for the purpose of exerting force on or causing movement of a body part. See more at muscle.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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contraction in Culture

contraction definition

A word produced by running two or more words together and leaving out some of the letters or sounds. For example, isn't is a contraction of is not.

Note: An apostrophe is generally used in contractions to show where letters or sounds have been left out.
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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contraction in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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