con·​tour | \ ˈkän-ˌtu̇r How to pronounce contour (audio) \

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

Four stunning Natasha Denona palettes — three eye shadow palettes and one for highlight and contour — are heavily reduced at, and there's no telling how long the discount will last, so get to clicking. Alexis Rhiannon, Allure, "Natasha Denona's Highly Coveted Eye Shadow Palettes Are on Sale at Sephora Right Now," 23 May 2019 The system helps recognize parts based on rough contours, differentiating a circuit breaker from a motor. Agam Shah, WSJ, "Factory Workers Become Coders as Companies Automate," 17 May 2019 In the same place where contour powder would go to make those hollows recede, blush brings attention to Khaliha's cheekbones by grabbing attention instead, softening and enhancing her bone structure without exaggerating her angles. Michelle Sulcov, Glamour, "These Before-and-After Photos Show What a Difference Blush Can Make," 31 Aug. 2018 Nov 14, 2018 New York lawmakers, who only learned about the full contours of the deal when it was publicly announced, express outrage at being left on the sidelines of closed-door negotiations. WSJ, "Timeline of Amazon’s New York Plans," 14 Feb. 2019 As he's also set to write the script, Zemeckis will have full control over the contours of the plot. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Anne Hathaway Is Starring in a Remake of Roald Dahl's The Witches," 18 Jan. 2019 Her photos are like a glass of cold water in a social feed dominated by faces heavy with contour. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Instagram Beauty Sensation @Gelcream Shares Her Anti-Aging Secrets," 6 Mar. 2019 Neither the governor nor MTA’s leaders have offered specific contours of a congestion-pricing plan, including how much the toll would be and exactly what the money would be used for. Jimmy Vielkind, WSJ, "De Blasio Rejects Congestion Pricing Plan, But Leaves Door Open," 11 Feb. 2019 The sky is pretty much the limit (people have even used iPhones to blend their contour, after all). De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Camila Mendes Blends Makeup With a Pancake in Cole Sprouse's Instagram Story," 17 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Next up, a swirl of bronzer and an on-the-go girl’s guide to contouring. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Kourtney Kardashian’s Guide to Natural-ish Masking and Makeup," 2 Apr. 2019 It's angled perfectly to contour your nose and jawline. $6 (Shop Now). Stephanie Saltzman, Allure, "18 Reasons Every Beauty Lover Should Shop at Target," 1 Oct. 2018 Kim announced that KKW Beauty would be releasing their first-ever powder contouring kit and took to Instagram to swatch the new product. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Every Time Jeffree Star Has Publicly Feuded With the Kardashian/Jenner Family," 18 Mar. 2019 After applying the foundation with her fingers, Kelsey wraps up her face makeup with a touch of contouring and concealer. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Kelsey Merritt Shared the Makeup Routine She Followed for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Casting," 13 Nov. 2018 CoolSculpting is a non-invasive body contouring treatment. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "Everything You Need to Know About CoolSculpting (and Were Too Afraid to Ask)," 11 Jan. 2019 Take a sheer layer of white paint and use it to contour your face, focusing on your nose and upper lip. Blake Bakkila, Good Housekeeping, "We're Obsessed With This Easy Cat Makeup Tutorial for Halloween," 5 Sep. 2018 By directing radio-frequency heat one to three centimeters under the skin, this device claims to tighten and contour the arms, legs, abdomen, jaw line, and regions around the eyes. Allure, "The Skin-Care Glossary: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything You Need to Know," 17 Aug. 2018 The brand has since expanded beyond eyebrow-shaping products into contouring kits, liquid lipsticks and other makeup. Jaewon Kang, WSJ, "Celebrities Like Kylie Jenner Are Upending the $52 Billion Beauty Industry," 28 Nov. 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

4 Jun 2019

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 How to pronounce contour (audio) \

Kids Definition of contour

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


con·​tour | \ ˈkän-ˌtu̇(ə)r How to pronounce contour (audio) \

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).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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