One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A pre-existing contract of marriage. Now chiefly historical.
2Generally. Any contract or agreement previously entered into, especially one which precludes the making of another, similar contract.
1with object (Usually in pass.). To engage (a person) in a previous contract of marriage; to affiance or betroth beforehand. Now chiefly historical.
2with object To establish (an agreement, etc.) by contract in advance. Also without object: to enter into a contract beforehand; to agree, arrange, or purchase in advance.
Late 15th century; earliest use found in Rolls of Parliament. From pre- + contract, after post-classical Latin precontractus pre-existing contract of marriage and Anglo-Norman precontrat, precontract, precontrait<br>late 16th century; earliest use found in Parish Documents York. From pre- + contract, perhaps after post-classical Latin precontrahere to make a pre-contract of marriage.
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