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

Biggest faux pas Not blending your contour well enough, leaving you with a five-o’clock shadow. Vanity Fair, Vanities, "SZA Loves Lisa Simpson, Balenciaga, and Her Rite Aid Hoodie," 26 June 2018 These marketplaces have had their troubles - with many commercial insurers defecting and prices spiking - but their basic contours have remained intact., "'You've handed us an issue:' Democrats pounce on Trump administration's health care move," 11 June 2018 As a result, the steady passage of time changes Trevor’s characters, like the soft contours of a stone worn from the elements over the years. S. Kirk Walsh, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Last Stories,’ by William Trevor," 24 May 2018 By 1875, wallpaper patterns in one self-portrait take on abstract lives of their own; in another that year, his palette brightens and twinkles, as Impressionistic brushstrokes free themselves from descriptive contours and sculptural mass. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "Cézanne’s Colorful Coterie," 28 Mar. 2018 In her latest Beauty Smartie video tutorial, Maria Gomez walks through all the steps to create a cut crease eye makeup look, which is basically like contour for your eyes. Victoria Rodriguez, Seventeen, "Life-Changing Hacks to Apply Flawless Cut Crease Eyeshadow," 5 Mar. 2018 The foundation is joined by two eye palettes, two brow palettes, a highlighter palette, a contour palette, and a lip palette, along with 14 brushes. Rachel Nussbaum, Glamour, "Meghan Markle’s Wedding Foundation Is Exactly as Good as It Looked," 15 June 2018 With this in mind, Puckey likes to contour along the temples. Devon Abelman, Allure, "How to Contour for Your Face Shape," 13 June 2018 Take a slow and steady look at the contours of your life, Virgo. Bess Matassa, Teen Vogue, "Monthly Lovescopes July 2018," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 As such, there’s little the actors can do to contour their performances; they are left to hone line readings, which are always sitcom accurate. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Log Cabin,’ It’s Gay vs. Trans as the Rainbow Crumbles," 25 June 2018 Then contouring went mainstream and products started arriving at my desk in dark chocolate and ebony shades deep enough to get the effect that many fair-skinned women turn to bronzer for. Jessica Cruel, SELF, "I Found a Bronzer That Actually Shows Up on My Dark Skin," 23 May 2018 Yup, there isn't a one-size-fits-all method to contouring your face. Devon Abelman, Allure, "How to Contour for Your Face Shape," 13 June 2018 Don't worry about your cheekbones right now — focus your contouring efforts on the puffiest areas of your face, like your eyes and nose. Marci Robin, Allure, "How to Conceal Your Seasonal Allergy Symptoms With Makeup," 19 Apr. 2018 Although Queen Victoria might not necessarily approve, blush has survived the onslaught of strobing highlighters and contouring kits to make its full return to our vanities without a hitch., "The Surprising Reason Blush Is Making A Big Comeback This Summer," 12 June 2018 The kit, which sells for $9 (compared to KKW Beauty's $49), comes with two double-ended sticks for highlighting and contouring, and a two-sided blender with a brush on one end and a sponge on the other (sound familiar?). Zoë Weiner, Teen Vogue, "This $9 Contour Kit Looks Just Like KKW Beauty's Créme Contour Sticks," 18 May 2018

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

8 Oct 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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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).


evasion of direct action or statement

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