1

contour

noun con·tour \ ˈkän-ˌtu̇r \
Updated on: 16 Nov 2017

Definition of contour

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

Examples of contour in a Sentence

  1. He loved the sleek contours of the car.

  2. The map showed the contour of the coastline.

Recent Examples of contour from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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 1turn

Synonym Discussion of 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

2

contour

adjective

Definition of contour

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

First Known Use of contour

1844

Other Agriculture/Gardening Terms


3

contour

verb

Definition of contour

transitive verb
1 a :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

Recent Examples of contour from the Web

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.

First Known Use of contour

1871

Other Civil Engineering Terms


CONTOUR Defined for English Language Learners

contour

noun

Definition of contour for English Language Learners

  • : the outline or outer edge of something


CONTOUR Defined for Kids

contour

noun con·tour \ ˈkän-ˌtu̇r \

Definition of contour for Students

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

Medical Dictionary

1

contour

noun con·tour \ ˈkän-ˌtu̇(ə)r \

medical Definition of contour

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

2

contour

transitive verb

medical Definition of contour

:to shape the contour of
  • contour a gingiva in gingivoplasty


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