Definition of retract in US English:



  • 1Draw or be drawn back or back in.

    with object ‘she retracted her hand as if she'd been burned’
    no object ‘the tentacle retracted quickly’
    • ‘Pushing this button pushes the spring to one side, retracting the pawl from the bit opening.’
    • ‘Remus's eyes widened from fear, as he retracted his neck.’
    • ‘He killed the engine, listening to it die solemnly, coolly, retracting his keys from the ignition.’
    • ‘Return to the uptight position, then squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the handles into your abdomen while retracting your shoulders and keeping your arms close to your body.’
    • ‘A panel also can be set up with a button for extending and retracting the panel.’
    • ‘The coil mechanism inside the case had a ratchet clutch that was disengaged when a button in the center of the side of the case was pushed, thus retracting the blade.’
    • ‘After retracting the grapple cord and holstering the pistol, Mike braced himself for the three meter fall to the inside of the compound.’
    • ‘Then, she retracts her gaze, looking down, and slowly away.’
    • ‘‘Don't be rude,’ Raven said retracting her hand from his head.’
    • ‘A neat addition is that the head-rest of the central rear seat can be retracted into the seatback when this is not occupied.’
    • ‘Firmly cupping the inner plate of a dumbbell with both hands, she lifts the weight overhead to the start position, slightly retracting her scapulae (shoulder blades).’
    • ‘He slammed down on the button on the table, retracting the top and bringing the computer console up.’
    • ‘Several rows of tables had been retracted into the bulkhead to allow for a dance floor, while waiter robots served drinks and food.’
    • ‘After a moment of no action from his part, he retracts his hands and stares at them for a moment.’
    • ‘The rear of the controller has a winding mechanism to retract the aerial, which when extended goes to about 45 cm.’
    • ‘She groaned distastefully, retracting her hand back and using it to pull herself into a sitting position.’
    • ‘Sometimes the buyer retracts the payment saying that a transfer never took place at all.’
    • ‘Penderan grins quietly to himself, Riley glances up momentarily, but retracts her attention as soon as he feels it upon him - if even only softly.’
    • ‘‘Yes Sir,’ he called back, retracting the lens and turning back to his duties.’
    • ‘The designers intended the bridges to be retracted when flooding would damage conventional bridges.’
    1. 1.1with object Withdraw (a statement or accusation) as untrue or unjustified.
      ‘he retracted his allegations’
      • ‘The minister has asked Brady about the feasibility of a procedure used in Canada, which allows a jury to consider statements that have been retracted by the witnesses.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, that study is going to be retracted due to some small problems.’
      • ‘He also said he was considering reintroducing tuition fees, then retracted his statement.’
      • ‘He subsequently retracted the claim but in a manner that failed to reassure many experts.’
      • ‘Gartner has retracted its most recent quarterly server numbers and published revised statistics.’
      • ‘They then retracted their statement and said that some of the injuries were old.’
      • ‘He said: "I do not retract what I have put in writing."’
      • ‘He subsequently retracted the remark, admitting that he had ‘overreacted.’’
      • ‘However, the company quickly retracted its statement, claiming instead that the timepieces would go on sale that very month.’
      • ‘‘It's his own doing, is what I meant,’ she'd said, retracting a little, but not retreating.’
      • ‘No sooner does he draw a grand comparison than he retracts or qualifies it.’
      • ‘John finally confesses to Danforth, but retracts his confession when he refuses to have the paper that he signed hung up on the church door.’
      • ‘Right now, only three months later, I would like to retract what I said.’
      • ‘After public embarrassment, the agency retracted the memo.’
      • ‘By retracting his confession he lost the opportunity of being considered for parole.’
      • ‘‘I doubt I will need to go farther than the foothills of the Sh'iwa Mountains,’ I reply, retracting my earlier statement.’
      • ‘Okay, I'm prepared to retract my original statement.’
      • ‘There was desperate silence, as if David was hoping that if he waited long enough, the question would be retracted.’
      • ‘There is, as it seems to me at least, nothing in that judgment which the court should now seek to vary, modify or retract, assuming that it were open to the court to do so.’
      • ‘When finally he is convinced that Macduff is sincere, however, he retracts his self-denigration and explains why he has lied in this peculiar fashion.’
      take back, withdraw, unsay, recant, disown, disavow, disclaim, abjure, repudiate, renounce, reverse, revoke, rescind, annul, cancel, go back on, backtrack on, do a u-turn on, row back on
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2with object Withdraw or go back on (an undertaking or promise)
      ‘the parish council was forced to retract a previous resolution’
      • ‘A played card cannot be retracted and as soon as it is played the opponent is entitled to play on it.’
      • ‘Your Honours, I made some concessions either explicit or implicit on the last occasion which I wish to retract.’
      • ‘The seller, John Leitch, did send in a link to the auction page earlier this morning showing £110,000 had been bid and the reserve met - but this bid was later retracted.’
      • ‘If it is corrected before the player who revoked plays to the next trick, the opponent who played after the revoke may retract one's card and substitute another.’
      • ‘Several weeks later, Pioneer retracted its decision, allegedly due to concern about unfavorable publicity and pressure from its labor union.’
      • ‘I am even thinking about retracting my business from them all together.’
      • ‘Once software has been licensed under the GPL, the license cannot be retracted.’


Late Middle English: from Latin retract- ‘drawn back’, from the verb retrahere (from re- ‘back’ + trahere ‘drag’); the senses ‘withdraw (a statement’) and ‘go back on’ via Old French from retractare ‘reconsider’ (based on trahere ‘drag’).