early 15c., retracten, "to draw (something) back, draw in, absorb," from Old French retracter (14c.) and directly from Latin retractus, past participle of retrahere "to draw back" (see retraction).
Sense of "to revoke, recant, take back" (an offer, declaration, etc.), is attested from 1540s, probably a back-formation from retraction. Of body parts, etc., "draw or shrink back, draw in," 1660s. Related: Retracted; retracting.