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From Middle English retracten, borrowed from Old French retracter, from Late Latin rētractō (I undertake again; I withdraw, refuse, decline; I retract), from Latin retractus (withdrawn), perfect passive participle of retrahō (I draw or pull back, withdraw; I call back, remove). Doublet of retreat.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ɹəˈtɹækt/
  • Rhymes: -ækt
  • (file)


retract (third-person singular simple present retracts, present participle retracting, simple past and past participle retracted)

  1. (transitive) To pull back inside.
    An airplane retracts its wheels for flight.
    The wheelchair ramp on the bus wouldn't retract after use, it required persuasion by hand before the bus could move.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To draw back; to draw up.
    Muscles retract after amputation.
    A cat can retract its claws.
  3. (transitive) To take back or withdraw something one has said.
    I retract all the accusations I made about the senator and sincerely hope he won't sue me.
    • 1676, Edward Stillingfleet, A Defence of the Discourse Concerning the Idolatry Practised in the Church
      I would as freely have retracted this charge of idolatry as I ever made it.
    • 1726, George Granville, The British Enchanters
      She will, and she will not; she grants, denies, / Consents, retracts, advances, and then flies.
  4. To take back, as a grant or favour previously bestowed; to revoke.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Woodward to this entry?)


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