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Contract vs. Reduce: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 13, 2023
Contract means to become smaller or shorter, or to enter into a formal agreement, while reduce means to make something smaller in size, amount, or degree.

Key Differences

Contracting typically refers to the act of decreasing in size, length, or area, or forming a legal agreement. Reducing encompasses a broader range of decreasing in size, amount, intensity, or extent.
When muscles contract, they become shorter and tighter. In contrast, when something is reduced, it is diminished in size, quantity, or intensity, like reducing noise levels.
A contract as a noun is a binding agreement between parties. To reduce, on the other hand, often involves lessening resources or materials, like reducing waste.
In business, contracting can mean entering into a commercial agreement. Reducing, in a similar context, might involve cutting costs or downsizing operations.
The physical process of contraction is usually involuntary, like the contraction of the heart. Reducing something like speed or production is a deliberate action.

Comparison Chart


To become smaller or enter into an agreement
To make something smaller or less

Usage as a Noun

A legal agreement
Not typically used as a noun


Physical changes, legal agreements
Decreasing size, amount, intensity


Can be involuntary (physical) or voluntary (agreement)
Usually a deliberate action

Business Context

Entering agreements or deals
Cutting costs, downsizing

Contract and Reduce Definitions


To enter into a formal agreement.
She contracted with the company for her services.


To lower the grade or rank of something, often in a demoting sense.
He was reduced from a manager to a regular employee.


To decrease in size, number, or range.
Metal contracts as it cools.


To make smaller or less in amount, degree, or size.
The shop reduced its prices for the sale.


To bring on or bring about.
His actions contracted the wrath of the community.


To bring someone or something to a lower or weaker state.
The illness reduced him to a shadow of his former self.


To shorten (a word or phrase) by combination or elision.
‘Do not’ is often contracted to ‘don’t’.


To boil a liquid until it decreases in volume.
She reduced the sauce to intensify the flavor.


To catch or become affected by (a disease or illness).
He contracted a cold during the winter.


To simplify a mathematical equation or expression.
We can reduce the equation to a simpler form.


An agreement between two or more parties, especially one that is written and enforceable by law.


To bring down, as in extent, amount, or degree; diminish.


The writing or document containing such an agreement.


To gain control of; subject or conquer
"a design to reduce them under absolute despotism" (Declaration of Independence).


The branch of law dealing with formal agreements between parties.


To subject to destruction
Enemy bombers reduced the city to rubble.


Can contract be used in a medical context?

Yes, in medicine, contract can mean to become infected with a disease.

Do both words have physical meanings?

Contract does, as in muscles contracting, but reduce generally does not refer to physical body actions.

Is reduce always intentional?

Typically, yes. Reducing something usually involves a deliberate effort to make it smaller or less.

What does it mean to reduce in mathematics?

In math, reducing means simplifying an equation or expression.

Can contract be used in a grammatical sense?

Yes, it can refer to shortening a word or phrase, like contracting "do not" to "don’t".

Is contract used in a legal sense?

Yes, it's commonly used to refer to legal agreements.

What is the primary meaning of contract?

As a verb, it primarily means to become smaller or to make an agreement; as a noun, it refers to a legal agreement.

Is contracting a disease always voluntary?

No, contracting a disease is often involuntary.

Can both words be used in a business context?

Yes, contract is used for agreements, and reduce is used for decreasing resources or costs.

Can reduce be used in cooking?

Yes, such as reducing a sauce by boiling to decrease its volume.

Can reduce have an emotional context?

Yes, like reducing someone's pride or confidence.

Are there synonyms for contract?

Yes, like shrink or condense for its physical meaning, and agree or covenant for its legal meaning.

What are common synonyms for reduce?

Decrease, lessen, and diminish are common synonyms.

Is 'contract' used in construction?

Yes, for agreements in construction projects and physical contraction of materials.

Is there a physical object called a contract?

Yes, a contract as a noun is a physical or digital document outlining an agreement.

Can both words be used in a financial context?

Yes, contract for agreements and reduce for decreasing costs or debts.

Can 'reduce' imply demotion?

Yes, it can imply lowering someone's rank or status.

Can 'reduce' be positive?

Yes, such as reducing risk or danger.

Can reduce be used in environmental contexts?

Yes, like reducing pollution or waste.

Is it correct to use 'contract' for reducing speed?

No, 'reduce' would be the correct term for decreasing speed.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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