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 pluralthe 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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for contour

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Noun He loved the sleek contours of the car. The map showed the contour of the coastline.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Begin your search for bends by studying a detailed contour lake map of the reservoir. Mark Hicks, Field & Stream, "How to Fish Creek Channels for Summer Bass," 9 June 2020 Moreover, there is a more aggressive hood contour than on the regular 4-series, even though the massive bulge of the current M4 disappears. Laura Sky Brown, Car and Driver, "This Is the Next BMW M4, Revealed in Leaked Photo," 5 June 2020 At night, my routine consists of giving myself a soothing facial treatment using my NuFace Trinity Facial Training Kit to contour and tone. Jessica Morgan,, "How My Beauty Routine Is Helping Manage My Anxiety During The Pandemic," 21 May 2020 Use the nude gold powder as a highlighter, contour powder, or for all-over shimmer. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Everything You Need to Know About MAC's Selena La Reina Makeup Collection," 6 Apr. 2020 In the Bravo 10/22, the rail is designed to float a .920 bull or sporter contour Ruger barrel. Michael R. Shea, Field & Stream, "Best New Rimfire Ammunition and Accessories of SHOT Show 2020," 4 Feb. 2020 City staff laid out the broad contours of the plan Tuesday. Joshua Fechter,, "San Antonio eyes $70 million plan to expand testing for novel coronavirus, contact tracing," 12 May 2020 New Delhi and Washington are still working out the contours of a possible deal and the Indian side has indicated its willingness to ease pricing caps on medical equipment. Archana Chaudhary,, "Lighthizer to Talk Trade Deal With India Before Trump Visit," 10 May 2020 People can choose to reveal the full contours of a traumatic incident at their own pace. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, "Joe Biden, Tara Reade, and the Democrats’ Unasked-for Dilemma," 4 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Several of the body-positive lingerie label’s bestselling styles — including its Leakproof underwear and WingWoman contour bra — will be available in five different shades. Truc Nguyen,, "This Inclusive Canadian Brand Is Now Making Nude Lingerie For All," 20 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Shoppers also love the breathable mesh fabric straps that contour to their feet and the fact that the supportive sandals are machine-washable. Rebecca Carhart, Travel + Leisure, "These Ultra-comfortable Sandals Have Over 6,400 Five-star Reviews — and They’re Majorly Marked Down Right Now," 23 June 2020 Side sleepers need a mattress that can contour to the natural curve of their bodies and relieve hip and shoulder pressure. Mandie Kelleher, Better Homes & Gardens, "The Best Mattresses for Back Pain to Help You Sleep Easy," 19 June 2020 The Miracle Complexion Sponge has a flat side, which makes baking and contouring a breeze. Devon Abelman, Allure, "The Best Makeup Sponges for Blending Foundation and Contouring," 21 Jan. 2020 First, use your fingertips or Czech's pro tool to massage and contour the facial muscles, moving along the jawline and upwards towards the highs of the cheekbones, under-eye region, and across the forehead. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Dior’s New Skin Expert Explains How to Keep Your Complexion Glowing This Winter," 18 Nov. 2019 This treatment is non-surgical and non-invasive yet can contour your face and improve the appearance of your double chin. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "3 Quick Procedures to Rejuvenate Your Look," 12 Mar. 2020 Now, learn how to contour like a pro: Follow Kaleigh on Instagram and Twitter, or subscribe to Allure's newsletter for daily beauty stories delivered right to your inbox. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "Why Makeup Artists Say You Should Always Have Two Foundations in Your Kit," 25 May 2018 For additional support, the soles and upper are bonded together using a machine that cement-locks the two and a bladder that pressurizes the two, contouring to the lug pattern of each boot for uniformity. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "Everything That Goes Into Making a Danner Boot," 20 Jan. 2020 The Sculpting and Contour palette ($58) features eight shades that emphasize not so much the dark-versus-bright approach to contouring but the way the colors come together for seamless sculpting. Marci Robin, Allure, "Makeup Artist Scott Barnes Is Launching the Only Five Palettes You’ll Ever Need," 21 Nov. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about contour

Time Traveler for contour

Time Traveler

The first known use of contour was in 1662

See more words from the same year

Statistics for contour

Last Updated

17 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contour.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for contour


How to pronounce contour (audio)

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

Medical Definition of contour (Entry 2 of 2)

: to shape the contour of contour a gingiva in gingivoplasty

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on contour

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contour

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!