1620s, "action of touching," from Latin contactus "a touching," from past participle of contingere "to touch, seize," from com- "together" (see com-) + tangere "to touch," from PIE root *tag- "to touch, handle."
Figurative sense of "connection, communication" is from 1818. As a signal to the person about to spin an aircraft propeller that the ignition is switched on, the word was in use by 1913. Contact lens is first recorded 1888; short form contact is from 1961.
1834, "put in contact," from contact (n.). Meaning "get in touch with" is 1927, American English. Related: Contacted; contacting.
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