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 The particulars of contemporary life (the etiquette of FaceTime, for instance) contour familial dynamics. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "The Best Books Vogue Editors Read in 2020," 24 Dec. 2020 People walk here along the northern coast of the San Francisco Bay, crowding a path that bends to the contour of the shore. Scott Wilson, Washington Post, "A pandemic side effect: Used masks polluting California coastal waters," 11 Dec. 2020 Save the hassle of cleaning up your foundation, concealer, and contour by doing eye makeup before the rest of your routine. Cailey Darling, Allure, "Makeup Tips for People Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision," 1 Dec. 2020 There's support for biking and walking as well as driving, a choice of map views that include a useful contour mode, and the ability to quickly bookmark or share particular points on the map as and when needed. David Nield, Wired, "6 Privacy-Focused Alternatives to the Apps You Use Every Day," 13 Dec. 2020 The trim barrel contour keeps weight to a bit over seven pounds. Michael Dickerson, Outdoor Life, "10 Great Mid-Priced Bolt-Action Hunting Rifles," 8 Dec. 2020 Elaborate contour routines have made way for multi-use sticks and creams. Nicola Dall'asen, Allure, "Patrick Starrr's New Collection Is Bringing Makeup Maximalism Back to 2020," 9 Nov. 2020 Rocker is an upward contour, primarily found at the nose and tail, although there are many boards like the Gnu Riders Choice with rocker in the center. Drew Zieff, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Snowboards You Can Buy Right Now," 7 Dec. 2020 Actress Eva Mendes recently shared her experience undergoing a mono-thread facial treatment, where acupuncture-like pins, or threads, were injected around the contour of her jawline. Megan Decker,, "The Top-Requested Plastic Surgery Trends Of 2020 — That No One Is Talking About," 5 Dec. 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 In her clip, Giuliani shows two different ways to contour with blush: One option with bronzer and another without it. Jennifer Aldrich, Better Homes & Gardens, "An '80s Makeup Trend Is Coming Back—and It Looks Gorgeous on All Skin Tones," 5 Jan. 2021 First, use your fingertips or Czech’s pro tool to massage and contour the facial muscles, moving along the jawline and upward toward the highs of the cheekbones, under-eye region, and across the forehead. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "How to Heal Dry Skin in Winter, According to a Celebrity Facialist," 22 Dec. 2020 The NuFace Trinity Toning Device delivers targeted microcurrents to the face and neck to lift, contour and fight wrinkles. Kiana Murden, CNN Underscored, "46 beauty products you should honestly just gift yourself," 24 Nov. 2020 These devices use a microcurrent to contour, lift and smooth skin by toning your facial muscles. Kiana Murden, CNN Underscored, "Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale is now open to everyone," 19 Aug. 2020 Nose wires are used to firmly contour the mask to the shape of the nose for a better fit. Lauren Corona,, "The best cloth mask for kids," 14 Oct. 2020 Mimic the hands of Hollywood’s most in-demand facialists with these sculpting and facial toning devices that contour cheekbones, lift jawlines, and massage heavy eyebrows. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "The Best Skin-Care Tools and Beauty Devices to Start Using This Fall," 7 Oct. 2020 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

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

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contour.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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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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