verb (kŏnˈtăktˌ, kən-tăktˈ) con·tact·ed
a. A coming together or touching, as of objects or surfaces.
b. The state or condition of touching or of immediate proximity: Litmus paper turns red on contact with an acid.
a. Connection or interaction; communication: still in contact with my former employer.
b. Visual observation: The pilot made contact with the ship.
c. Association; relationship: came into contact with new ideas at college.
- A person who might be of use; a connection: The reporter met with her contact at the mayor's office.
a. A connection between two conductors that permits a flow of current or heat.
b. A part or device that makes or breaks such a connection.
- Medicine A person recently exposed to a contagious disease, usually through close association with an infected individual.
- A contact lens.
, con·tacts verb, transitive
- To bring or put in contact.
- To get in touch with; communicate with: “This past January I was contacted by a lawyer who said he needed my help” (Elizabeth Loftus).
To be in or come into contact. adjective
- Of, sustaining, or making contact.
- Caused or transmitted by touching: a contact skin rash.
Origin: Latin contāctus
Origin: , from past participle of contingere, to touch
Origin: , from
Origin: past participle of contingere, to touch
Origin: : com-, com-
Origin: + tangere, to touch; see tag- in Indo-European roots
- con·tacˈtu·al (kən-tăkˈcho͞o-əl) adjective
The verb contact
is a classic example of a verb that was made from a noun and of a new usage that was initially frowned upon. The noun meaning “the state or condition of touching” was introduced in 1626 by Francis Bacon. Some 200 years later it spawned a verb meaning “to bring or place in contact.” This sense of the verb has lived an unremarkable life in technical contexts. It was only in the first quarter of the 20th century that contact
came to be used to mean “to communicate with,” and soon afterward the controversy began. Contact
was declared to be properly a noun, not a verb, and moreover to be vague when used as a verb. However, turning nouns into verbs is one of the most frequent ways in which new verbs enter English. Sometimes there is resistance to such verbs, but often, especially when a term seems free of association with the jargon of business or bureaucracy, acceptance comes more freely, as with curb, date, elbow, interview, panic,
and park. Contact
is but another instance of what linguists call functional shift
from one part of speech to another. As for the vagueness of contact,
this seems a virtue in an age in which forms of communication have proliferated. The sentence We will contact you when the part comes in
allows for a variety of possible ways to communicate: by mail, telephone, computer, or fax. • Despite the lengthy history of disapproval of contact
by language critics, the verb's usefulness and popularity appear to have worn down resistance to it. In 1969, only 34 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the use of contact
as a verb, but in a recent survey 65 percent of the Panel accepted it in the sentence She immediately called an officer at the Naval Intelligence Service, who in turn contacted the FBI.
See Usage Note at impact