Quiz: Remember the definition of mal de mer?


[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).
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. 2015.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for contractions
  • As for the contractions, you might want to ask for proof before getting worried.
  • The researchers are also looking for shifts or contractions in species distribution-a fingerprint of climate change.
  • Sudden range contractions follow harsh winters, but expansion resumes eventually.
  • The rate of the muscles' contractions determines the pitch and duration of the calls.
  • The problem is, the effects of really rapid contractions don't last a couple of months.
  • But sectoral shifts, or credit contractions, are not catastrophic when they are slow enough for people to plan.
  • The nurse asked if the contractions were five minutes apart and lasted more than a minute.
  • What follows are spasmodic skeletal muscle contractions, a quickened heart- beat, and rapid breathing.
  • These muscle contractions continued for some forty minutes.
  • Attempts to move her arms produced clonic contractions, ie, contractions not sustained but compulsively repeated.
British Dictionary definitions for contractions


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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for contractions



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
Cite This Source
contractions 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.
Cite This Source
contractions 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.
Cite This Source
contractions 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.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for contraction

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for contractions

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with contractions

Nearby words for contractions