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noun con·trary \ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē, -ˌtre-rē\

Definition of contrary



  1. 1 :  a fact or condition incompatible with another :  opposite —usually used with the

  2. 2 :  one of a pair of opposites

  3. 3 a :  a proposition so related to another that though both may be false they cannot both be true — compare subcontrary b :  either of two terms (as good and evil) that cannot both be affirmed of the same subject

by contraries

  1. obsolete :  in a manner opposite to what is logical or expected

on the contrary

  1. :  just the opposite

to the contrary

  1. 1 :  on the contrary

  2. 2 :  notwithstanding

Examples of contrary in a sentence

  1. As kiss-and-tell books go, “Opening Arguments” by Jeffrey Toobin has few, if any, deep and sensuous secrets to reveal—this despite many news stories to the —contrary. —Nina Totenberg, New York Times Book Review, March 31, 1991

  2. He was not, despite the mythology he and his press agents so assiduously manufactured, a risk taker. On the contrary, he was more often timid to the point of fecklessness. —Christopher Buckley, New York Times Book Review, 4 Nov. 1990

  3. Other men—a surprising number of them—do not feel anger or blame. On the contrary, they feel a strong blood tie to their fathers, and to them the discipline was a minor thing. —Robert Bly, Iron John, 1990

  4. “Is this the girl who has moved into Villa Villekulla?” asked one of the policemen. “Quite the contrary,” said Pippi. “This is a tiny little auntie who lives on the third floor at the other end of the town.” —Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking, (1950) 1978

  5. <the admonition that we should not return hate with hate, but rather with its contrary—love>

Origin and Etymology of contrary

Middle English contrarie, from Anglo-French contraire, contrairie, from Medieval Latin contrarius, from Latin, adjective, opposite, adverse, from contra opposite

First Known Use: 13th century



adjective con·trary \ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē, -ˌtre-rē, 4 often kən-ˈtrer-ē\

Simple Definition of contrary

  • : exactly opposite to something else : entirely different from something else

  • : against or opposed to something

  • : not favorable or helpful

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of contrary

  1. 1 :  being so different as to be at opposite extremes :  opposite <come to the contrary conclusion> <went off in contrary directions>; also :  being opposite to or in conflict with each other <contrary viewpoints>

  2. 2 :  being not in conformity with what is usual or expected <actions contrary to company policy> <contrary evidence>

  3. 3 :  unfavorable —used of wind or weather

  4. 4 :  temperamentally unwilling to accept control or advice


play \-ˌtrer-ə-lē, -ˈtrer-\ adverb


play \-ˌtrer-ē-nəs, -ˈtrer-\ noun

Examples of contrary in a sentence

  1. Kicking Wolf was a very contrary man—he did as he pleased. —Larry McMurtry, Dead Man's Walk, 1995

  2. At sunrise 4 January she set sail, and the homeward passage began. Two days later, Columbus sighted Pinta sailing in a contrary direction … —Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America, 1974

  3. Mistress Mary got up from the log at once. She knew she felt contrary again, and obstinate, and she did not care at all. —Frances Hodgson, The Secret Garden, 1911

  4. The sisters gave contrary answers: one said yes and one said no.

  5. We had contrary opinions on the issue.

  6. Without contrary evidence, the jury will find her guilty.

  7. The boat sailed against a contrary wind.

  8. Contrary weather impeded the rescue efforts.

Origin and Etymology of contrary

(see 1contrary)

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of contrary

contrary, perverse, restive, balky, wayward mean inclined to resist authority or control. contrary implies a temperamental unwillingness to accept orders or advice <a contrary child>. perverse may imply wrongheaded, determined, or cranky opposition to what is reasonable or normal <a perverse, intractable critic>. restive suggests unwillingness or inability to submit to discipline or follow orders <tired soldiers growing restive>. balky suggests a refusing to proceed in a desired direction or course of action <a balky witness>. wayward suggests strong-willed capriciousness and irregularity in behavior <a school for wayward youths>.

synonyms see in addition opposite



adverb con·trary \ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē, -ˌtre-rē, also kən-ˈtrer-ē\

Definition of contrary

Origin and Etymology of contrary

(see 1contrary)

First Known Use: 15th century

CONTRARY Defined for Kids



noun con·trary \ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē\

Definition of contrary for Students



  1. :  something opposite <… we never see the true state of our condition till it is illustrated to us by its contraries … — Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe>

on the contrary

  1. :  just the opposite :  no <You look tired. On the contrary, I'm wide awake.>



adjective con·trary \ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē, 4 is often kən-ˈtrer-ē\

Definition of contrary for Students

  1. 1 :  exactly opposite <Their opinion is contrary to mine.>

  2. 2 :  being against what is usual or expected <Her actions are contrary to school policy.>

  3. 3 :  not favorable <contrary weather>

  4. 4 :  unwilling to accept control or advice <a contrary child>

Seen and Heard

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of or relating to the heavens

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