context (n.) Look up context at
early 15c., from Latin contextus "a joining together," originally past participle of contexere "to weave together," from com "with, together" (see com-) + texere "to weave, to make," from PIE root *teks- "to weave," also "to fabricate."
contextual (adj.) Look up contextual at
c. 1820, from context on model of textual, etc. In philosophy, contextual definition is recorded from 1934, along with contextualization, contextualize. Related: Contextualized.
contextualise (v.) Look up contextualise at
chiefly British English spelling of contextualize (see contextual); for suffix, see -ize. Related: Contextualised; contextualising.
contiguity (n.) Look up contiguity at
1640s, from French contiguité from Latin contiguitas, from contiguus (see contiguous).
contiguous (adj.) Look up contiguous at
1610s, from Latin contiguus "near, touching, bordering upon," from root of contingere "to touch upon" (see contact). Earlier form, now obsolete, was contiguate (mid-15c.).
continence (n.) Look up continence at
late 14c., "self-restraint," from Old French continence (14c.), from Latin continentia "a holding back, repression," from continent-, present participle stem of continere (see continent). Especially of sexual desire from late 14c.; of the body's eliminatory functions, from 1915. Related: Continency.
continent (adj.) Look up continent at
late 14c., "self-restraining," from Old French continent and directly from Latin continentem (nominative continens) "holding together, continuous," present participle of continere "hold together" (see contain). Meaning moved from "exercising self-restraint" to "chaste" 14c., and to bowel and bladder control 19c.
continent (n.) Look up continent at
"large land mass," 1550s, from continent land (mid-15c.), translating Latin terra continens "continuous land," from continens, present participle of continere (see continent (adj.)).
continental (adj.) Look up continental at
1818 as a purely geographical term, from continent + -al (1). In reference to the European mainland (as opposed to Great Britain), recorded from 1760. Continental breakfast (the kind eaten on the continent as opposed to the kind eaten in Britain) is attested by 1855. In reference to the British American colonies from 1774; the Continental Congress is attested from 1775; continental divide in use by 1865; continental rise in geology from 1959; continental slope from 1907. Continental shelf first attested 1888.
continental drift Look up continental drift at
1925, a translation of German Kontinentalverschiebung, proposed 1912 by German scientist Alfred Wegener (1880-1930); the theory was not widely accepted until after c. 1950.
continentality (n.) Look up continentality at
1897, a term in meteorology, from German kontinentalität (1895), from Latin continentem (see continent (adj.)).
contingence (n.) Look up contingence at
early 16c., from Medieval Latin *contingentia, from contingent- present participle stem of contingere "to touch" (see contact (n.)).
contingencies (n.) Look up contingencies at
"unexpected additional expenses," 1660s, from contingency.
contingency (n.) Look up contingency at
1560s, "quality of being contingent," from contingent + -cy. Meaning "a chance occurrence" is from 1610s.
contingent (adj.) Look up contingent at
late 14c., from Old French contingent or directly from Latin contingentem (nominative contingens) "happening, touching," present participle of contingere "to touch" (see contact). The noun is from 1540s, "thing happening by chance;" as "a group forming part of a larger group" from 1727.
continual (adj.) Look up continual at
early 14c., continuell, from Old French continuel (12c.), from Latin continuus (see continue). That which is continual is that which is either always going on or recurs at short intervals and never comes to an end; that which is continuous is that in which there is no break between the beginning and the end. Related: Continually (c. 1300, contynuelliche).
continuance (n.) Look up continuance at
mid-14c., "a keeping up, a going on," from Old French continuance (13c.), from continuer (see continue).
continuation (n.) Look up continuation at
late 14c., from Old French continuation (13c.), or directly from Latin continuationem (nominative continuatio), noun of action from continuat-, past participle stem of continuare (see continue).
continue (v.) Look up continue at
mid-14c., contynuen, from Old French continuer (13c.), from Latin continuare "join together, connect, make or be continuous," from continuus "uninterrupted," from continere (intransitive) "to be uninterrupted," literally "to hang together" (see contain). Related: Continued; continuing.
continuity (n.) Look up continuity at
early 15c., from Middle French continuité, from Latin continuitatem (nominative continuitas), from continuus (see continue). Cinematographic sense is recorded from 1921, American English.
continuous (adj.) Look up continuous at
1640s, from French continueus or directly from Latin continuus "uninterrupted, hanging together" (see continue). Related: Continuously.
continuum (n.) Look up continuum at
1640s, from Latin continuum "a continuous thing," neuter of continuus (see continue). The plural is continua.
contort (v.) Look up contort at
early 15c., from Latin contortus, past participle of contorquere "to whirl, twist together," from com "with, together," here perhaps intensive (see com-) + torquere "to twist" (from PIE root *terkw- "to twist"). Related: Contorted; contorting.
contortion (n.) Look up contortion at
early 15c., from Middle French contorsion or directly from Latin contortionem (nominative contorsio), noun of action from past participle stem of contorquere (see contort).
contortionist (n.) Look up contortionist at
1841, from contortion + -ist.
contour (n.) Look up contour at
1660s, a term in painting and sculpture, from French contour "circumference, outline," from Italian and Medieval Latin contornare "to go around," from Latin com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + tornare "to turn (on a lathe);" see turn (v.).

First recorded application to topography is from 1769. Earlier the word was used to mean "bedspread, quilt" (early 15c.) in reference to its falling over the sides of the mattress. Related: Contoured. Contour line in geography is from 1844.
Contra (n.) Look up Contra at
1981, "anti-Sandinista Nicaraguan," short for Spanish contrarrevolucionario "counter-revolutionary."
contra Look up contra at
mid-14c., from Latin contra (prep. and adv.) "against," originally "in comparison with," ablative singular feminine of *com-teros, from Old Latin com "with, together" (see com-) + -tr, zero degree of the comparative suffix -ter-.
contra dance Look up contra dance at
1803, from French contre-danse, altered from English country dance by folk etymology from French contra "against," suggested by the arrangement of the partners in the dance. The dances and the name were taken up in France c. 1720s and from there passed to Spain and Italy (Spanish, Italian contra danza) then back to English.
contra- Look up contra- at
word-forming element meaning "against, in opposition," from Latin adverb and preposition contra "against" (see contra). The Latin word was used as a prefix in Late Latin. In French, it became contre- and passed into English as counter-. The Old English equivalent was wiðer (surviving in withers and widdershins), from wið "with, against."
contraband (n.) Look up contraband at
1520s, "smuggling;" 1590s, "smuggled goods;" from Middle French contrebande "a smuggling," from older Italian contrabando (modern contrabbando) "unlawful dealing," from Latin contra "against" (see contra) + Medieval Latin bannum, from Frankish *ban "a command" or some other Germanic source (see ban (v.)).
contraception (n.) Look up contraception at
"birth control," coined 1886 from Latin contra (see contra) + ending from conception.
contraceptive Look up contraceptive at
1891 (n.), 1918 (adj.), from stem of contraception + -ive.
contract (v.) Look up contract at
late 14c., "make narrow, draw together;" early 15c. "make an agreement;" from Middle French contracter, from Latin contractus, past participle of contrahere "to draw together, combine, make an agreement" (see contract (n.)). Related: Contracted; contracting.
contract (n.) Look up contract at
early 14c., from Old French contract (Modern French contrat), from Latin contractus "a contract, agreement," from past participle of contrahere "to draw together," metaphorically, "to make a bargain," from com- "together" (see com-) + trahere "to draw" (see tract (n.1)). U.S. underworld sense of "arrangement to kill someone" first recorded 1940.
contracted (adj.) Look up contracted at
c. 1600, "agreed upon," also "shrunken, shortened," past participle adjective from contract (v.).
contractile (adj.) Look up contractile at
1706, from French contractile, from Latin contract-, past participle stem of contrahere (see contract (n.)). Related: Contractility. Contractile vacuole is from 1877.
contraction (n.) Look up contraction at
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.
contractor (n.) Look up contractor at
1540s, "one who enters into a contract," from Late Latin contractor, agent noun from past participle stem of Latin contrahere (see contract (n.)); specifically of "one who enters into a contract to provide work, services, or goods" from 1724.
contractual (adj.) Look up contractual at
1827, from Latin contractus (see contract (n.)) + -al (1).
contracture (n.) Look up contracture at
1650s, from French contracture, from Latin contractura "a drawing together," from contractus, past participle of contrahere (see contract (n.)).
contradict (v.) Look up contradict at
1570s, "speak against," also "assert the contrary" (1580s), from Latin contradictus, past participle of contradicere, in classical Latin contra dicere "to speak against," from contra "against" (see contra) + dicere "to say, speak" (from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly"). Related: Contradicted; contradicting; contradictive.
contradiction (n.) Look up contradiction at
late 14c., from Old French contradiction or directly from Latin contradictionem (nominative contradictio) "a reply, objection, counterargument," noun of action from past participle stem of contradicere, in classical Latin contra dicere "to speak against," from contra "against" (see contra) + dicere "to say, speak" (from PIE root *deik- "to show," also "pronounce solemnly").
contradictory (adj.) Look up contradictory at
1530s, "mutually opposed, at variance," from Late Latin contradictorius "containing a contradiction or objection," from contradictus, past participle of contradicere (see contradiction). Meaning "fond of contradicting" is from 1891. Used earlier as a noun (late 14c.).
contradistinction (n.) Look up contradistinction at
1640s, from contra- + distinction.
contrail (n.) Look up contrail at
1945, from condensation trail.
contraindicate (v.) Look up contraindicate at
1660s, from contra- + indicate. Related: Contraindicated; contraindication (1620s).
contralateral (adj.) Look up contralateral at
1882, from contra- + lateral.
contralto (n.) Look up contralto at
"lowest female voice," 1730, from Italian contralto; see contra- "against, opposite" + alto. The part next above the alto.
contraposition (n.) Look up contraposition at
1550s, from Late Latin contrapositionem (nominative contrapositio), noun of action from past participle stem of contraponere, from contra "against" (see contra) + ponere "to put, place" (past participle positus; see position (n.)).