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

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Synonyms for contour

Synonyms: Noun

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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

Noun He loved the sleek contours of the car. The map showed the contour of the coastline.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In the Before, the standard look for a female newscaster or a politician or an Instagram influencer involved styled hair, a full face of makeup (primer, foundation, concealer, contour and blush) and eyelash extensions from here to the moon. Jennifer Weiner, Star Tribune, "Nancy Pelosi went back to the salon, so does that mean I must?," 11 Sep. 2020 The smooth melodic contour and noble warmth of this sonority is an Elgar fingerprint. Barrymore Laurence Scherer, WSJ, "A Joyful Song of Proud Tradition," 4 Sep. 2020 For a chiseled contour, Ham squeezes the head of their brush for a more precise application and swipes tawny powder along the cheekbones and jawline. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Watch London Nightlife Fixture Parma Ham’s Extreme Gothic Beauty Transformation," 2 Sep. 2020 KKW Beauty, West’s own brand, which launched in 2017 as well, sold $14.4 million in contour kits in less than three hours. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, "The Makeup Artist at Ground Zero of Internet Beauty Culture," 31 Aug. 2020 The Air Max shoes come in two colors and feature asymmetrical lacing that will follow the contour of your foot. Nicole Briese, USA TODAY, "You can get Nike sneakers and more at a huge discount thanks to Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale," 9 Aug. 2020 Unlike the sofa-soft seats of most mainstream American sedans, our test car's split-bench front seat had firm padding and a proper contour. Csaba Csere, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1986 Ford Taurus LX Shapes the Future of the Family Sedan," 2 July 2020 The contour of the hotel, which just turned 25 years old, looks like a faded ‘70s postcard; its namesake rocks perched high above the Caribbean Sea with red ladders and curved stairs emerging from the water. Kate Donnelly, Travel + Leisure, "This Resort In Jamaica Is Like the Adult Summer Camp You’ve Always Wanted," 12 July 2020 All Day Foundation, the line also includes a complementary range of concealers, contour palettes, and lipstick. Sharon Brandwein, USA TODAY, "11 inclusive makeup brands with products for all skin tones," 1 July 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 Or, more accurately, mathematical rules likely work with biological processes to determine patterns on animals—the leopard’s spots, the horse’s dapples, and, yes, those beautiful black stripes that contour and bend around the tiger’s orange fur. Tom Mcnamara, Popular Science, "How a 19-year-old lion fathered 35 cubs in 18 months," 27 Aug. 2020 This machine-washable knit mask has a metal nose piece to contour the mask to your face (and keep it from slipping) along with elastic ear loops and a filter pocket. Courtney Campbell, USA TODAY, "10 stylish face masks to buy while shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale," 26 Aug. 2020 The Jashen is also incredibly light and has gymnast-level flexibility, able to easily contour to fit underneath furniture and around table legs to reach spots other vacuums wouldn’t come close to hitting. Scott Simone, CNN Underscored, "The Jashen V16 vacuum is Dyson-like in power at half the price," 3 July 2020 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

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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Time Traveler for contour

Time Traveler

The first known use of contour was in 1662

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Statistics for contour

Last Updated

21 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contour.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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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

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