contour

1 of 3

noun

con·​tour ˈkän-ˌtu̇r How to pronounce contour (audio)
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

contour

2 of 3

adjective

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

contour

3 of 3

verb

contoured; contouring; contours

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
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
Although the basic contours of the accord have been on the table for weeks, both sides seemed reticent to finalize any agreement, with talks repeatedly reaching the final stages before collapsing. Shannon K. Crawford, ABC News, 22 Nov. 2023 The watch is instantly recognizable as a Girard-Perregaux timekeeper while reflecting the sculpted contours and sharp lines of Aston Martin’s DB12. Cait Bazemore, Robb Report, 16 Nov. 2023 Gently sweep your fingers from the center of your face, following the natural contours outward, then continue down to your chin and neck. Danielle Sinay, Glamour, 3 Nov. 2023 The angled brush works into the contours of your face– from cheekbones to jawline and forehead– defining your face with necessary control. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 10 Nov. 2023 It's also meant some Israeli settlers are now donning their army reserve uniforms, blurring the contours of the state. WIRED, 7 Nov. 2023 And thanks to the meandering contours of Puget Sound, Washington has, like California, a vast amount of coastline — in theory, prime habitat for coast redwoods. Moises Velasquez-Manoff, New York Times, 25 Oct. 2023 Amazon Prime Day 2023 Luxury Skin-Care Deals Our team is currently loving is Foreo's Bear Facial Toning Device, a microcurrent device that'll (temporarily) sculpt the look of your natural contours. Sarah Han, Allure, 6 Oct. 2023 In tracking the contours of that love, Coppola’s filmmaking throws off a whispery new confidence. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct. 2023
Adjective
This is best to be cut with dry hair to create texture, contour individual features and remove weight where needed. Hannah Coates, Vogue, 24 Nov. 2023 The lightweight suitcase features a comfortable contour grip handle, extra durable zippers, and sturdy spinner wheels that glide effortlessly on and off of planes and through the airport. Rachael Green, Travel + Leisure, 7 July 2023 Fenty Beauty’s contour stick and Anastasia Beverly Hills’s powder sculpt her visage (pro tip: blend nose contour with your fingers for a natural look), while a NARS color corrector and Dior concealer brighten her dark circles. Kiana Murden, Vogue, 15 June 2023 What is contour? Contouring works by mimicking natural shadow, so a matte finish (as opposed to a shimmery one) in a contour product is a must. Angela Trakoshis, Allure, 24 Feb. 2023 Some soles, such as those made of cork, contour to the shape of your foot. Lindsay Modglin, Verywell Health, 13 Apr. 2023 Westman's special trick is to dab the contour stick on her eyelids for definition. Megan Decker, refinery29.com, 9 Mar. 2023 The company says its AI may help speed up a process called contour delineation, in which clinicians use CT scans to outline healthy organs and tissue at risk so the radiation can be directed towards the tumor. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 15 Mar. 2023 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, refinery29.com, 20 May 2020
Verb
Create a flick at the end of your eye and just contour your eye. Elle Turner, Glamour, 31 Oct. 2023 The medium level of buildable coverage imparts a natural soft skin finish and can be tasked with highlighting, contouring, and color-correcting duties as well. Carrie Honaker, Southern Living, 11 Sep. 2023 Some common methods TikTokers use to give off the uncanny valley feeling include using black eyeshadow to make their pupils look bigger, contouring their faces to appear more hollow and using black lip liner to extend the corners of their lips. Arianna Johnson, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Its contouring adaptive foam is designed to relieve pressure while breathable, open-cell technology allows for air circulation and cooling. Buy Side Staff, wsj.com, 6 Nov. 2023 Her cheeks also appeared to have a bronzer or contouring product applied to them as well. Gabi Thorne, Allure, 18 Oct. 2023 The flexible bristles contour to your hair to minimize pulling. Sophie Dodd, Peoplemag, 29 Sep. 2023 What's more: Unique design elements like contouring patterns on the sides of the legs and hips enhance your shape and add dimension. Lindsay Geller, Women's Health, 7 Sep. 2023 Filters have gone from just okay — obviously fake lashes that glitch with each movement, blindingly-white eyeballs, skin smoothed and contoured to a superficial, mannequin-like texture — to virtually undetectable. Kirbie Johnson, Allure, 27 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contour.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1844, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of contour was in 1662

Dictionary Entries Near contour

Cite this Entry

“Contour.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contour. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

contour

1 of 3 noun
con·​tour ˈkän-ˌtu̇(ə)r How to pronounce contour (audio)
1
: the outline of a figure, body, or surface
2
: a line or drawing showing an outline

contour

2 of 3 adjective
1
: following contour lines or forming furrows or ridges along them
contour farming
contour flooding
2
: made to fit the contour of something
contour bedsheets

contour

3 of 3 verb
1
: to shape the contour of
2
: to shape to fit contours

Medical Definition

contour

1 of 2 noun
con·​tour ˈkän-ˌtu̇(ə)r How to pronounce contour (audio)
: an outline especially of a curving or irregular figure
also : the line representing this outline

contour

2 of 2 transitive verb
: to shape the contour of
contour a gingiva in gingivoplasty

More from Merriam-Webster on contour

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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