Definition of contingency in English:



  • 1A future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.

    ‘a detailed contract which attempts to provide for all possible contingencies’
    • ‘For sustainability and depth, we maintained the next-up company on a two-hour launch string, while keeping the third company down for future contingencies.’
    • ‘It may be that the nature of the engagement was such that the interest that your Honour had was an interest in the future when the contingency occurred.’
    • ‘The actuarial valuation of a pension is based on a number of assumptions using statistics about future contingencies.’
    • ‘There was obvious and unavoidable difficulty in persuading the bank to lend money on the basis of future contingencies.’
    • ‘In these models, complexity seems to be the reason why unforeseen contingencies are possible.’
    • ‘Moses is trying to wriggle out of his mission by highlighting possible contingencies and his own inadequacy.’
    • ‘Furthermore, you know that the expected lifetime of the product is uncertain and depends upon future contingencies, including your own way of life, your heartbeat.’
    • ‘It need not be the optimal strategy in any future; it will, however, yield satisfactory outcomes in both easy-to-envision futures and hard-to-anticipate contingencies.’
    • ‘This was a contingency that most had predicted.’
    • ‘It enables the levy to be applied to petrol and any other category of fuel that may be prescribed by regulations, therefore providing for any future contingencies.’
    • ‘He said that generous provision had been made within the existing costs that would enable the council to deal with any possible contingencies.’
    • ‘Our own forces cannot focus solely on future overseas contingencies, but also must defend bases and facilities both at home and abroad.’
    • ‘It is hard to see how it is in their interest to stop, since they need the influence this money buys for future contingencies.’
    • ‘This second approach, however, is complicated, because our missions in future contingencies will most often require offensive operations.’
    • ‘Christmas is looming ever closer, and this morning on the radio warnings were going out to holiday campers, to have a contingency for possible evacuations, in the event of fire.’
    • ‘The modern world has urbanized to an unprecedented degree, and it is inconceivable that future military contingencies will not involve urban operations.’
    • ‘I conclude that $100,000 is a fair amount to deduct as a contingency against future earnings by Stephanie during her lifetime.’
    • ‘Did the Bali tragedy and its impact on the hospital and the unit and so on, sort of set up a framework for future contingencies?’
    • ‘This provided the frame of reference for determining what range of resupply times is probable in future contingencies.’
    • ‘I would therefore reduce his estimate of the value of the developable portion of part four from $860,000 to $800,000 to allow for future contingencies.’
    eventuality, incident, happening, occurrence, juncture, possibility, accident, chance, emergency
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    1. 1.1A provision for a possible event or circumstance.
      ‘stores were kept as a contingency against a blockade’
      • ‘The campaigner said the contingency engineering plan would offer a legally, economically and environmentally advantageous solution to the current route.’
      • ‘There had been no provision for contingencies and it was assumed that design fees and site works were in the original library estimates.’
      • ‘Then it's just a matter of desperate fumbling and trusting to my contingency planning.’
      • ‘And what contingencies are being planned should the war widen to other parts of the region?’
      • ‘Cooperative members suggest that the Agriculture State Fund should subsidise the wheat purchase price, while the state contingency reserves should pay higher prices for wheat.’
      • ‘In the critical chain, management reserves (i.e., contingencies such as additional time and budget) are incorporated.’
      • ‘On a behavior-analytic view, teaching is the arrangement of contingencies of reinforcement that expedite learning.’
      • ‘Blockades are considered and contingencies developed.’
      • ‘He said that in view of the prevailing drought conditions, the state Agriculture Department had prepared a contingency crop scheme.’
      • ‘Before the war in Afghanistan, that area was low on the list of major planning contingencies.’
      • ‘We briefed the game plan and contingencies, grabbed some chow, and walked to the flight deck to a pair of FA - 18s.’
      • ‘For example, the uniformed service chiefs in past administrations have been deeply involved in developing war plans and other military contingencies.’
      • ‘In its contingency planning, such a force would anticipate issues of coordination with other countries and determine how its activities would be directed on the ground.’
      • ‘The basic structure can be arranged so that these contingencies work for the good of the least fortunate.’
      • ‘Also a small contingency of seats was reserved for emergencies.’
      • ‘This component exemplifies a rich schedule with weak contingencies.’
      • ‘The Chinese government only has strategic oil reserve contingencies of 50 million barrels of oil - just 25 days supply.’
      • ‘And we're all actively planning contingencies right now and preparing for if this storm even brushes close to New Orleans.’
      • ‘Then I make a detailed plan with contingencies, strategies and coping methods.’
      • ‘If the provision of a contingency sum were normal practice, why would the Department of Health see the need to investigate the matter?’
      preparations, plans, planning, prearrangement, arrangements, precautions, precautionary measures, precautionary steps
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    2. 1.2An incidental expense.
      ‘allow an extra fifteen per cent on the budget for contingencies’
      • ‘No matter whom you hire, your budget should include 10 percent for contingencies.’
      • ‘Running an Internet cafe at his native place with two like-minded youngsters, Thamby has his own funds for meeting contingency expenses.’
      • ‘The remaining money will be used for contingencies and on-going communication with the private and public sectors.’
      • ‘If you break ground with every finish, every material, and every item specified, you still need a contingency budget.’
      • ‘No, but the consequence of applying contingencies to more profitable restaurants is different from the consequence of applying contingencies to less profitable restaurants.’
      • ‘Another power industry executive says that his company will consider negotiating with contractors if it can get the contingency and risk money out of the project price.’
      • ‘‘In every budget we have room for contingencies,’ she said.’
      • ‘They provide a payout based on a contingency, charging a premium for the privilege.’
      • ‘This problem could be largely solved with emergency funds from the federal budget - a contingency provided for by the architects of the policy.’
      • ‘He also urged the government ‘to commit any unspent contingencies and any revenue windfalls to debt reduction.’’
      • ‘If, for instance, a sum of money is payable on a contingency, there is no debt owing or accruing.’
      • ‘We recommended this be done through balanced budgets and the application of any unused contingencies to the debt.’
      • ‘The actuarial report does not take into account any general or specific contingencies, nor does it provide for a calculation of the loss of employment or pension benefits.’
      • ‘So one company found a way to book significant portions of disputed revenue before the contingencies were removed.’
      • ‘But it's because we don't know that answer that we've tried to budget very cautiously and to provide for all reasonable contingencies.’
      • ‘Consultants are jumping in and frightening boards of directors into covering every contingency at huge expense.’
      • ‘Because there is a transaction that is occurring, the consequence of which is that the person induced to enter into the transaction is not exposed to a liability to pay money on a contingency.’
      • ‘Review frequency depends on project time constraints, scale, and allocated budgetary contingencies.’
      • ‘That, as it were, removes or deals with a critical contingency which would make compensation payable, but it is only the first step.’
      • ‘From the news side perspective, the main tool for smoothing earnings was the contingency budget.’
    3. 1.3[mass noun]The absence of certainty in events.
      ‘the island's public affairs can occasionally be seen to be invaded by contingency’
      • ‘The event was briefed, and every contingency was mapped out.’
      • ‘The other is indignation at some historians' recourse to contingency and the counterfactual to unsettle old certainties.’
      • ‘Simply, there is nothing to see ‘correctly’; there are only shifting webs of contingency.’
      • ‘Under the umbrella of religious or cultural norms, discrimination is promulgated through the delimitation of cultural contingency.’
      • ‘It covers every contingency and of course if investors do wait long enough the ‘good investment in the long term’ will probably sooner or later prove to have been right.’
      • ‘A space shuttle contingency has been declared in Mission Control as a result of the loss of communication with the Space Shuttle Columbia.’
      • ‘Is history a tale of individual action and decision, of contingency, with vast consequences depending on who is on the spot and what they decide to do?’
      • ‘Buckingham uses contingency, the unfixing of meaning and the ephemeral as elements in his own labor process.’
      • ‘For ethical reasons, it will be difficult if not impossible to create the true response-cost contingency presented to the gambler.’
      • ‘This he sees as the latest outworking of a history which involves a ‘collision between contingency and enduring tradition.’’
      • ‘Most local headhunters operate on contingency, which means they do not charge or have commitment with the client until they offer the the right executive.’
      • ‘This hypothesis is also consistent with evidence that suggests that individuals use their knowledge to guide the selection of events to be used in the computation of contingency.’
      • ‘Apparently when the war plan was presented to the brass, they studied every detail, every contingency, every worst-case scenario, and signed off on it.’
      • ‘Factual truths don't even have any conclusive reason for being what they are, and they could always have been otherwise, i.e. they have unlimited contingency.’
      • ‘The value of wondering about life is not diminished thereby, but the big quest may amount to ‘confronting the fragility, unpredictability and contingency of life and doing the best we can with it’.’
      • ‘And cursed myself for not researching this contingency on the Internet.’
      • ‘Yet, this same contingency is what leads to the organised liar's defeat, because lying can never be a substitute for the truth.’
      • ‘He made an art that was a net to catch contingency.’
      • ‘But at its best, especially in the fiction, there is a fantastic sense of energy, intellectual fearlessness, contingency, reckless dash.’
      • ‘Well, this does not really matter so much, for the only thing that matters is the free soul within, and that cannot be touched by any contingency.’
    4. 1.4Philosophy [mass noun]The absence of necessity; the fact of being so without having to be so.
      • ‘Leibniz, in his discussion of contingency, had already recognized that existence is quite different from ordinary predicates.’
      • ‘If biology is ruled by contingency rather than necessity then why do we find duplicated designs?’
      • ‘But since contingency and necessity cannot coincide, the moving body has to be different from the principle or source of motion.’
      • ‘What this paradox reveals is that Hegel's position on women is neither a product of contingency nor an effect of ad hoc prejudice.’
      • ‘This may provide a way beyond the generalised extremes of homogeneity and heterogeneity in analysing the necessity and contingency in organisational forms of capital.’


Mid 16th century (in the philosophical sense): from late Latin contingentia (in its medieval Latin sense circumstance), from contingere befall (see contingent).