When you and someone else have agreed on something and that agreement is both binding and enforceable by law, you have a contract. When you rent an apartment, you and your future landlord sign a rental contract.

You can also use the word in this sense as a verb meaning "to hire." Wouldn't you like to contract someone to clean your room for you? In other verbal uses of contract, place the accent on the second syllable — kun-TRAKT. If you contract a disease, you catch it, but only use this if it's something serious. You catch a cold, but contract malaria. Contract also means "shrink." When the economy contracts, consumers stop buying things, and people lose their jobs, and if you freeze water, it contracts too.

Definitions of contract
  1. noun
    a binding agreement between two or more persons that is enforceable by law
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    adhesion contract, contract of adhesion
    a contract that heavily restricts one party while leaving the other free (as some standard form printed contracts); implies inequality in bargaining power
    aleatory contract
    a contract whose performance by one party depends on the occurrence of an uncertain contingent event (but if it is contingent on the outcome of a wager it is not enforceable)
    bilateral contract
    a contract involving mutual promises (each party is both promisor and promisee)
    a contract to hire or lease transportation
    conditional contract
    a contract whose performance depends on a fact or event that affects legal relations
    cost-plus contract
    a contract in which the contractor is paid his total cost plus a stated percentage of profit
    gambling contract
    a contract whose performance by one party is contingent on the outcome of a bet; unenforceable by statute in most jurisdictions
    a contract granting use or occupation of property during a specified time for a specified payment
    marriage contract, marriage settlement
    a prenuptial agreement or contract
    output contract
    a contract in which you promise to deliver your entire output to the other party who promises to accept it
    insurance, insurance policy, policy
    written contract or certificate of insurance
    purchase agreement, purchase contract
    a contract stating the terms of a purchase
    quasi contract
    a contract created by law for reasons of justice without any expression of assent
    requirements contract
    a contract in which you agree to purchase all your requirements of a particular sort from one party
    contract under seal, sealed instrument, special contract
    a contract that is signed and has the (wax) seal of the signer attached
    service contract
    a contract for maintenance services
    severable contract
    a contract which, in the event of a breach by one of the parties, can be considered as several independent agreements expressed in a single instrument
    a contract assigning to another party some obligations of a prior contract
    a contract between two or more persons who agree to pool talent and money and share profits or losses
    articles of agreement, shipping articles
    a contract between crew and captain of a ship
    concession, grant
    a contract granting the right to operate a subsidiary business
    collective agreement, labor agreement, labor contract
    contract between labor and management governing wages and benefits and working conditions
    employment agreement, employment contract
    contract between employer and employee
    distribution agreement
    a contract governing the marketing of an item of merchandise
    licensing agreement
    contract giving someone the legal right to use a patent or trademark
    acquisition agreement, merger agreement
    contract governing the merger of two or more companies
    contract of hazard, sale in gross
    a sale of a tract of land as a whole without a warranty as to the acreage
    a contract binding one party into the service of another for a specified term
    floater, floating policy
    an insurance policy covering loss of movable property (e.g. jewelry) regardless of its location
    an authorization to sell a company's goods or services in a particular place
    yellow-dog contract
    a labor contract (now illegal) whereby the employee agrees not to join a trade union
    type of:
    written agreement
    a legal document summarizing the agreement between parties
  2. verb
    enter into a contractual arrangement
    synonyms: undertake
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    make an oral contract or agreement in the verbal form of question and answer that is necessary to give it legal force
    be engaged by a written agreement
    condition, qualify, specify, stipulate
    specify as a condition or requirement in a contract or agreement; make an express demand or provision in an agreement
    lease, rent
    let for money
    charter, hire, lease, rent
    hold under a lease or rental agreement; of goods and services
    sign at the bottom of (a document)
    append one's signature to
    autograph, inscribe
    mark with one's signature
    mark with one's initials
    add one's signature to after another's to attest authenticity
    sign in the presence of witnesses
    endorse, indorse
    sign as evidence of legal transfer
    determine (what is to happen in certain contingencies), especially by including a proviso condition or stipulation
    type of:
    assure, promise
    make a promise or commitment
  3. verb
    engage by written agreement
    synonyms: sign, sign on, sign up
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    contract out
    assign a job to someone outside one's own business
    type of:
    employ, engage, hire
    engage or hire for work
  4. verb
    make or become more narrow or restricted
    synonyms: narrow
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    become broader or wider or more extensive
    become narrow, like a bottleneck
    taper off
    become smaller or less active
    type of:
    undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature
  5. verb
    make smaller
    “The heat contracted the woollen garment”
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    purse, wrinkle
    gather or contract into wrinkles or folds; pucker
    type of:
    reduce, shrink
    reduce in size; reduce physically
  6. verb
    become smaller or draw together
    synonyms: shrink
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    become longer by being stretched and pulled
    expand, spread out
    extend in one or more directions
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    type of:
    decrease, diminish, fall, lessen
    decrease in size, extent, or range
  7. verb
    squeeze or press together
    “the spasm contracted the muscle”
    synonyms: compact, compress, constrict, press, squeeze
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    choke, strangle
    constrict (someone's) throat and keep from breathing
    contract one's lips
    constrict or bind or draw together
    constrict a hollow organ or vessel so as to stop the flow of blood or air
    contract involuntarily, as in a spasm
    cause to contract
    bear down, overbear
    contract the abdominal muscles during childbirth to ease delivery
    choke, fret, gag
    be too tight; rub or press
    choke, scrag
    wring the neck of
    type of:
    become tight or tighter
  8. verb
    compress or concentrate
    synonyms: concentrate, condense
    become more compact or concentrated
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    type of:
    alter, change, modify
    cause to change; make different; cause a transformation
  9. verb
    reduce in scope while retaining essential elements
    synonyms: abbreviate, abridge, cut, foreshorten, reduce, shorten
    cut, edit, edit out
    cut and assemble the components of
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    dilate, elaborate, enlarge, expand, expatiate, exposit, expound, flesh out, lucubrate
    add details, as to an account or idea; clarify the meaning of and discourse in a learned way, usually in writing
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    bowdlerise, bowdlerize, castrate, expurgate, shorten
    edit by omitting or modifying parts considered indelicate
    concentrate, condense, digest
    make more concise
    capsule, capsulise, capsulize, encapsulate
    put in a short or concise form; reduce in volume
    make smaller or shorter
    type of:
    decrease, lessen, minify
    make smaller
  10. verb
    be stricken by an illness, fall victim to an illness
    synonyms: get, take
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    catch cold
    come down with a cold
    type of:
    come down, sicken
    get sick
  11. noun
    a variety of bridge in which the bidder receives points toward game only for the number of tricks he bid
    synonyms: contract bridge
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    a version of contract bridge in which no suit is designated as trump for the duration of the hand
    type of:
    any of various card games based on whist for four players
  12. noun
    (contract bridge) the highest bid becomes the contract setting the number of tricks that the bidder must make
    synonyms: declaration
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    type of:
    bid, bidding
    (bridge) the number of tricks a bridge player is willing to contract to make
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