Definition of contraband in English:



  • 1Goods that have been imported or exported illegally.

    ‘the police looked for drugs, guns, and other contraband’
    • ‘He carries concealed contraband, which he sneaks into the country in order to avoid inspection by the U.S. Customs Service.’
    • ‘It is thought this could take anywhere between three and 10 days to complete given the size of the ship and its cargo, which is perfect for hiding contraband.’
    • ‘If they catch me, I'll flee across the Mexican border with my truckload of contraband.’
    • ‘But 90 per cent of those polled also backed random searches for contraband - and educational authorities are making moves to ‘get tough in the war on drugs’.’
    • ‘On the contrary, the moment a book becomes illegal contraband it is suddenly all the more desirable.’
    • ‘Wisconsin upheld a regulation that allowed probation officers to search probationers based on ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe contraband is present.’
    • ‘As the search team finds contraband, evidence, or illegal weapons, they will evacuate each item to the detention/collection team, which should locate somewhere near the entry point.’
    • ‘He added that trained police dogs have long been a presence in Army prisons, where they are used for sniffing out narcotics and other contraband among the prisoners, and, occasionally, for riot control.’
    • ‘Apart from fishery protection duties naval ships carry out a variety of other tasks including search and rescue operations and the inspection of craft suspected of carrying illegal drugs or other contraband.’
    • ‘Buying and selling contraband, falsifying documentation to achieve employment, evading taxes, and paying bribes to public officials are socially accepted behaviors.’
    • ‘Those people were processed to make sure they had no weapons, no illicit dugs, no alcohol, no contraband, and then they were escorted back into the building.’
    • ‘It means that if a policeman tries to use illegally obtained contraband as evidence to charge a suspect, the court will readily strike down such illicit evidence.’
    • ‘At a frontier, one's personal belongings are subject to scrutiny, one's suitcases opened and searched for contraband, and one's passport examined to ensure that one's credentials are in order, and all this is done by a customs officer.’
    • ‘The ability to detect drugs and other unauthorised items will be improved, notably by the provision of a more effective searching procedure to be used where it is reasonably believed that a prisoner is concealing contraband.’
    • ‘With legal imports in 1998 of $15 billion, contraband accounted for 25 percent of all imports.’
    • ‘Their assignment is to inspect the vast underbelly of a Greek freighter anchored in New York Bay for possible signs of contraband.’
    • ‘I thought it might have been gold or contraband of some kind in relation to this matter.’
    • ‘They will search every compartment and void looking for contraband, weapons… anything that is not supposed to be there.’
    • ‘The tip-off led to the discovery of an illegal cigarette importation racket and a large quantity of contraband was seized.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that without the dogs some of that contraband would go on down the road.’
    booty, spoils, plunder, stolen goods, pillage
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    1. 1.1Trade in smuggled goods.
      ‘the government has declared a nationwide war on contraband’
      • ‘Warden replied that forfeiture ‘typically extends to the proceeds of some crime or contraband.’’
      • ‘With caves, coves and beaches round the island, there was many a hiding place for smugglers, and contraband was a way of life on Portland - with even the man employed by the government to put a stop to the practice deeply involved.’
      • ‘This amount would be equal to that received from the transit and contraband of all merchandise.’
      • ‘Knowing Rory, he probably ran a little contraband on the side, but the authorities often turn a blind eye to small scale smuggling.’
      • ‘But like drugs, and alcohol during Prohibition, black-market contraband always provides a means to acquire whatever is the forbidden fruit of the moment.’
      • ‘Casey, thank you for that report, a report of success in dealing with the contraband and the smugglers in the weaponry for global terrorism.’
      • ‘In 1728 Spain founded the Caracas Company to combat this contraband and to control exports to Spain from the region.’
      • ‘The contraband at park headquarters has a market value totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.’
      • ‘Their political power is tied to networks of corruption and contraband.’
      • ‘‘If his business is clean, we can dismiss the usual explanations of narcotics, contraband or human trafficking,’ he said.’
      • ‘Membership has instead arguably contributed to a growth in the shadow economy, and most notably, contraband, due to tax harmonization.’
      • ‘The proceeds of the drugs trade or other contraband finance organised crime groups.’
      • ‘It survived on contraband and piracy, trading cattle, hides, sugar, tobacco, and foodstuffs directly with other nations.’
      • ‘You need to discuss your rights to living in an environment free of contraband and illegal activity, your right to privacy, and the need for a fair and sanctioned visitation policy.’
      • ‘Although the gangs were predominantly comprised of labourers or artisans, who regarded the practice as a legitimate part of the local economy, the contraband reached all sections of society.’
      smuggling, illegal traffic, black marketeering, trafficking, bootlegging
      the black market
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    2. 1.2Goods forbidden to be supplied by neutrals to those engaged in war.
      • ‘Lincoln also was the first Commander-in-Chief to declare medicines contraband of war.’
      • ‘International law has not precisely defined all classes of goods that are contraband of war per se.’
      • ‘Neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under enemy's flag.’
    3. 1.3(during the US Civil War) a black slave who escaped or was transported across Union lines.
      • ‘In May 1861, General Benjamin F. Butler declared slaves who fled to the Union army headquartered at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, to be contraband of war - that is, enemy property open to confiscation by Union troops.’
      • ‘They worked only at night, riding from plantation to plantation, stopping black people, searching their homes for contraband and whipping any slave caught traveling without a written pass.’


  • 1Imported or exported illegally, either in defiance of a total ban or without payment of duty.

    ‘contraband drug shipments’
    • ‘Smugglers and drug traffickers will find it even harder to sneak in contraband goods.’
    • ‘The Dutch bought contraband cacao from Caracas producers, and shipped it to Amsterdam, which soon became the main supplier of cacao to Europe, including Spain itself.’
    • ‘Most were arrested for prostitution, selling contraband cigarettes and working illegally.’
    • ‘The practice is certainly not confined to housewives buying more sugar to fill up their pantry, nor to small-time smugglers holding contraband merchandise in mountain-caves.’
    • ‘A comparison of Colombian tobacco imports with US tobacco exports reveals just how many contraband cigarettes were being shipped southward from the United States.’
    • ‘Lucian's family had a history of smuggling and trading contraband items when taxes got too high for people's tolerance.’
    • ‘Many contraband items such as drugs are smuggled in without being declared even though it is common knowledge that the drugs trade exists.’
    • ‘The mastermind of a massive smuggling operation to flood Yorkshire with millions of contraband cigarettes has been jailed for four years.’
    • ‘An initial contingent of 300 forest rangers is being sent into the woods, to be deployed along the country's borders, particularly with Pakistan, where most of the contraband timber is sold.’
    • ‘Seizures in Scotland have shown that the Russian mafia disguise their contraband goods by hiding them in tons of scrap metal and rags inside container lorries.’
    • ‘Last year customs launched a three-year £209 million strategy to tackle tobacco smuggling, but with a flood of contraband cigarettes still easily available, some vendors feel more must be done.’
    • ‘The international cocaine trade re-emerged in Colombia in the 1970s, courtesy of a mafia which cut its teeth on contraband whiskey, marijuana and luxury goods.’
    • ‘I have researched contraband caviar in Azerbaijan, in Astrakhan, and Moscow and have seen the toll it took on depleting fish stocks.’
    • ‘He has been charged with attempting to smuggle contraband drugs.’
    • ‘This lust for profit means they will trade in anything that makes money: drugs, contraband goods, even illegal immigrants.’
    • ‘A Chinese fishing boat disguised as a Taiwanese vessel was intercepted off the coast early yesterday while it was attempting to smuggle a large amount of contraband cigarettes to Taiwan.’
    • ‘So cooperative are some guards that they will warn prisoners if there is going to be a search of the cells, so the inmates can hide contraband items like weapons, cellular phones and pornographic VCDs.’
    • ‘Although I may agree that criminalizing alcohol was ridiculous, I cannot sanction the support that people gave criminal enterprises through their contraband purchases.’
    • ‘Many of the goods she sells are contraband items smuggled in from The Gambia (about 30 kilometers to the south).’
    • ‘Some girls and boys are used by drug dealers and smugglers to transport and sell drugs and contraband goods and some are used to beg on the streets.’
    smuggled, black-market, bootleg, bootlegged, under the counter, illegal, illicit, unlawful
    prohibited, banned, proscribed, forbidden, interdicted
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    1. 1.1Relating to traffic in illegal goods.
      ‘the contraband market’
      • ‘Massive police raids on contraband markets in Mexico City earlier this year met with resistance from vendors who hurled sticks and stones and trashed vehicles to defend their merchandise.’
      • ‘There will increasingly be times when, encountering terrorists, contraband smugglers, or others who are seeking to breach the law, customs officers will find themselves having to deal with this threat alone.’
      • ‘You were with me, and we were busy busting that international contraband gang.’
      • ‘The intent, apparently, was to patrol an area that was known for contraband trafficking, but it was an undocumented mission.’
      • ‘Other government figures said the dispatch of soldiers to the border was to curb contraband traffic in the region.’
      • ‘Smuggling is not a small phenomenon: we have estimated that, globally, a third of legal cigarette exports disappear into the contraband market.’
      • ‘Its key characteristic is not cross border shopping and bootlegging but large scale fraud in which millions of cigarettes evade duty and appear on the contraband market.’
      • ‘‘I'm convinced that such illegal activities will cease as soon as the police arrest the contraband mafia bosses,’ she said.’
      • ‘More importantly, they want control of the contraband trade in drugs and arms in the area.’
      • ‘In addition to signing mutual agreements the leaders discussed drafting policies to battle contraband trade and drug trafficking along the border.’
      • ‘The price differential is now €1.14 per litre in the North against 79 cent in the Republic, making for a lucrative contraband market.’
      • ‘We will take the fight to all those involved in piracy and contraband trafficking.’
      illegal, illicit, unlawful, unauthorized, unsanctioned, unlicensed, unofficial, pirated
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Late 16th century: from Spanish contrabanda, from Italian contrabando, from contra- against + bando proclamation, ban.