con·​tour | \ˈkän-ˌtu̇r \

Definition of contour 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : an outline especially of a curving or irregular figure : shape the sleek contours of the car The map shows the contour of the coastline. also : the line representing this outline

2 : the general form or structure of something : characteristic often used in plural the contours of a melody… the contours of political and social theories.— James G. Paradis

3 : a usually meaningful change in intonation in speech



Definition of contour (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : following contour lines or forming furrows or ridges along them contour flooding contour farming

2 : made to fit the contour of something a contour couch contour sheets


contoured; contouring; contours

Definition of contour (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to shape the contour of

b : to shape so as to fit contours

2 : to construct (something, such as a road) in conformity to a contour

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Synonyms for contour

Synonyms: Noun

figure, outline, silhouette

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Choose the Right Synonym for contour


outline, contour, profile, silhouette mean the line that bounds and gives form to something. outline applies to a line marking the outer limits or edges of a body or mass. traced the outline of his hand contour stresses the quality of an outline or a bounding surface as being smooth, jagged, curving, or sharply angled. a car with flowing contours profile suggests a varied and sharply defined outline against a lighter background. a portrait of her face in profile silhouette suggests a shape especially of a head or figure with all detail blacked out in shadow leaving only the outline clearly defined. photograph in silhouette against a bright sky

Examples of contour in a Sentence


He loved the sleek contours of the car. The map showed the contour of the coastline.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The precise contours of the scheme are still coming into focus. Dylan Scott, Vox, "There’s election fraud in North Carolina. That’s not the same thing as voter fraud.," 11 Dec. 2018 The district’s new contours haven’t prompted Mr. Perry to back away from supporting Mr. Trump. Aaron Zitner, WSJ, "GOP Works to Rally the Trump Skeptics Within Party," 30 Oct. 2018 After a month of chanting, Devi’s eczema cleared up, her chronic anorexia had been mitigated, her approach to music shifted—and gradually, her sense of style took on new contours, too. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "How Meditation Transformed This Globe-Trotting Producer’s Approach to Music—And Her Vibrant Sense of Style," 7 Sep. 2018 The contours of Jabra’s otherwise excellent Elite 65t can cause a bit of soreness after an hour or so, but that didn’t happen here. Chris Welch, The Verge, "Anker Soundcore Liberty Lite earbuds review: low price sacrifice," 7 Sep. 2018 On the other hand, even at a full stop a large, several thousand ton submarine is likely producing minute vortices, as current swirls past the boat’s contours. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The Military Could Track Objects Underwater With Seal Whiskers," 13 Aug. 2018 The latest actions give contours to the first full term of President Donald Trump's appointee, Neil Gorsuch, and come on the eve of oral arguments in what is arguably the most important case of the annual nine-month session. Joan Biskupic, CNN, "Conservatives exert new control over Supreme Court," 24 Apr. 2018 Using a brand-new caviar absolute extract (the byproduct of spinning caviar in a centrifuge), the plush cream helps stimulate collagen and plump the facial contours both immediately and over time. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "La Prairie Proves That Skin Care Is A Work Of Art," 16 June 2017 Monday’s developments provide little clarity about the contours of the coming months of the investigation. Shelby Holliday, WSJ, "Mueller Accuses Paul Manafort of Lying to FBI After Plea Agreement," 26 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Mimic the hands of Hollywood’s most in-demand facialists with these sculpting tools that contour cheekbones, massage and lift heavy eyebrows, and de-puff the eye area. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "9 High-Tech Facial Tools to Up Your Beauty Game This Season," 15 Sep. 2018 However, in her Match Stick Matte Skinstick range, there is half the amount of shades, with 20 colors that can be used for contouring and/or concealing. Jillian Ruffo,, "How Kim Kardashian's Concealer Shade Range Compares to Kylie Jenner's and More Makeup Brands," 26 Mar. 2018 On Instagram there are countless people showing off their skills at contouring their cheekbones and seamlessly blending four colors of eye shadow on their lids. Marisa Meltzer, The Seattle Times, "How to do a makeup look in 5 minutes, tops," 7 Sep. 2018 Give the gums their bloody look by contouring with red eyeshadow, then apply fake blood liberally and give yourself a final blood spatter with red hairspray. Zoë Weiner, Teen Vogue, "The Scariest Halloween Makeup Tutorials," 8 Oct. 2018 Coolsculpting, a specific brand of cryolipolysisis, is a non-invasive body contouring treatment that can be performed under the chin, among other areas of the body. Michelle Gant, Fox News, "'Selfie awareness' has millennials turning to double chin removal procedures," 21 Sep. 2018 The best way to achieve this on your own is to use purple eyeshadow to contour your cheekbones and neck. Blake Bakkila, Good Housekeeping, "We Can't Get Enough of This Easy Vampire Makeup Tutorial for Halloween," 6 Sep. 2018 After baking with setting powder, Miller then uses a hydrating mist to set his work before baking again and then contouring. Allie Fasanella, Allure, "Watch Mayhem Miller of Drag Race Apply Her Full Face of Makeup In This Mind-Blowing Video," 3 July 2018 After prepping her face with moisturizer, makeup artist Andréa Tiller highlighted her face then contoured her cheeks with a soft, rosy blush. Lauren Valenti, Marie Claire, "The Secret Trick Amy Schumer Uses for Her Perfect Smoky Eye," 17 July 2015

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contour.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of contour


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1844, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for contour


French, from Italian contorno, from contornare to round off, from Medieval Latin, to turn around, from Latin com- + tornare to turn on a lathe — more at turn entry 1

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Statistics for contour

Last Updated

17 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contour

The first known use of contour was in 1662

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More Definitions for contour



English Language Learners Definition of contour

: the outline or outer edge of something


con·​tour | \ˈkän-ˌtu̇r \

Kids Definition of contour

: the outline of a figure, body, or surface the contour of the coastline


con·​tour | \ˈkän-ˌtu̇(ə)r \

Medical Definition of contour 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: an outline especially of a curving or irregular figure also : the line representing this outline


transitive verb

Medical Definition of contour (Entry 2 of 2)

: to shape the contour of contour a gingiva in gingivoplasty

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More from Merriam-Webster on contour

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with contour

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contour

Spanish Central: Translation of contour

Nglish: Translation of contour for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contour for Arabic Speakers

Comments on contour

What made you want to look up contour? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a knickknack or trinket

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