con·​tour | \ ˈkän-ˌtu̇r \

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

Tides are turning, however: Recently women like Lana Condor and Sandra Oh — women with faces like mine — have proudly walked the red carpet and posed for pictures (on magazine covers, no less!) without faces full of contour. Sandra Song, Teen Vogue, "How I Stopped Believing the Contouring Myths That Are Constantly Directed at Asian Women," 30 Nov. 2018 Their characters connect in a way that makes sense for two people who’ve seen most of life and know the precise nature and contours of its hard knocks, yet retain just enough idealism to fall in love. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Robert Redford bids farewell to the silver screen in the pitch-perfect The Old Man & the Gun," 28 Sep. 2018 The shapes and contours of our characters were now deeply carved, and were no longer pliable. Anne Slowey, Condé Nast Traveler, "Fear and Self-Loathing in the American Southwest," 25 July 2018 Of course @ocasio2018 contours with @katvondbeauty. Sarah Spellings, The Cut, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Uses This Contour Palette," 29 June 2018 The purpose is to address contour irregularities and fat deposition in specific areas. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Treatments to sculpt your body: Is Liposuction or CoolSculpting® an option?," 12 June 2018 Blood stains the sidewalk, and a basketball-size bald patch on the grass marks out the contours of the bomb. Scott Wilson, Washington Post, "‘Suspicious packages’ haunt Austin, which is rethinking its reality amid bombings," 20 Mar. 2018 Always ask the driver to use the contour, or meter. Tara Stevens, WSJ, "A Choosy Shopper’s Guide to Marrakesh," 5 Dec. 2018 Measuring 90 by 120 feet, this model is about the size of two basketball courts, the contours of the landscape laser-etched into 216 panels of white high-density foam. Nate Berg, Curbed, "Can engineering save Louisiana’s coastline?," 7 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 This kind of highlighting pairs nicely with contouring to further bring the light toward the center of your face. Brooke Shunatona, Cosmopolitan, "How to Apply Highlighter Based on the Glow You Want," 20 Feb. 2018 There is nothing surprising about Kim Kardashian West launching a line of contouring makeup sticks. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kim Kardashian On How KKW Beauty Will Be Different From Kylie Cosmetics," 20 June 2017 Mimic the hands of Hollywood’s most in-demand facialists with these sculpting tools that contour cheekbones, massage and lift heavy eyebrows, and de-puff the eye area. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "9 High-Tech Facial Tools to Up Your Beauty Game This Season," 15 Sep. 2018 However, in her Match Stick Matte Skinstick range, there is half the amount of shades, with 20 colors that can be used for contouring and/or concealing. Jillian Ruffo,, "How Kim Kardashian's Concealer Shade Range Compares to Kylie Jenner's and More Makeup Brands," 26 Mar. 2018 On Instagram there are countless people showing off their skills at contouring their cheekbones and seamlessly blending four colors of eye shadow on their lids. Marisa Meltzer, The Seattle Times, "How to do a makeup look in 5 minutes, tops," 7 Sep. 2018 Give the gums their bloody look by contouring with red eyeshadow, then apply fake blood liberally and give yourself a final blood spatter with red hairspray. Zoë Weiner, Teen Vogue, "The Scariest Halloween Makeup Tutorials," 8 Oct. 2018 Coolsculpting, a specific brand of cryolipolysisis, is a non-invasive body contouring treatment that can be performed under the chin, among other areas of the body. Michelle Gant, Fox News, "'Selfie awareness' has millennials turning to double chin removal procedures," 21 Sep. 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

12 Feb 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 \

Kids Definition of contour

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


con·​tour | \ ˈkän-ˌtu̇(ə)r \

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

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esteemed in general opinion

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