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From the past participle stem of Latin prōtrahō, essentially pro- +‎ tract.



protract (third-person singular simple present protracts, present participle protracting, simple past and past participle protracted)

  1. To draw out; to extend, especially in duration.
    • c. 1591, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1, Act I, Scene 2,[1]
      Doubtless he shrives this woman to her smock;
      Else ne'er could he so long protract his speech.
    • 1755, Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, London: J. and P. Knapton et al., Volume 1, Preface,[2]
      I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please, have sunk into the grave []
    • 1847, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, Chapter 19,[3]
      I should wish now to protract this moment ad infinitum; but I dare not.
    • 1979, Angela Carter, “The Tiger’s Bride” in Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories, New York: Henry Holt, 1996, p. 165,[4]
      A bereft landscape of sad browns and sepias of winter lay all about us, the marshland drearily protracting itself towards the wide river.
    • 2010, Christopher Hitchens, ‘The Men Who Made England’, The Atlantic, Mar 2010:
      Still, from these extraordinary pages you can learn that it's very bad to be burned alive on a windy day, because the breeze will keep flicking the flames away from you and thus protract the process.
  2. To use a protractor.
  3. (surveying) To draw to a scale; to lay down the lines and angles of, with scale and protractor; to plot.
    • 1856, Richard Francis Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Meccah, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, Volume 3, Chapter 25, page 147, footnote,[5]
      This is a synopsis of our marches, which, protracted on Burckhardt’s map, gives an error of ten miles.
  4. To put off to a distant time; to delay; to defer.
    to protract a decision or duty
    • c. 1609, William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2,[6]
      [] Let us bury him,
      And not protract with admiration what
      Is now due debt. To the grave!
    • 1736, Stephen Duck, “To Death” in Poems on Several Occasions, London: for the author, p. 146,[7]
      Then, since I’m sure to meet my Fate,
      How vain would Hope appear?
      Since Fear cannot protract the Date,
      How foolish ’twere to fear?
    • 1819, Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, Chapter 13,[8]
      Both hoped to protract the discovery of what had happened—the mother, by interposing her bustling person betwixt Mr. Girder and the fire, and the daughter, by the extreme cordiality with which she received the minister and her husband []
    • 1875, Anthony Trollope, chapter 64, in The Way We Live Now, London: Chapman and Hall, []:
      Of course he was in danger of almost immediate detection and punishment. He hardly hoped that the evil day would be very much longer protracted, and yet he enjoyed his triumph.
  5. To extend; to protrude.
    A cat can protract and retract its claws.


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