con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , -ˌtre-rē\
plural contraries

Definition of contrary

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a fact or condition incompatible with another : opposite usually used with the
2 : one of a pair of opposites
3a : a proposition (see proposition entry 1 sense 2a) so related to another that though both may be false they cannot both be true — compare subcontrary
b : either of two terms (such as good and evil) that cannot both be affirmed of the same subject
by contraries
obsolete : in a manner opposite to what is logical or expected
on the contrary
: just the opposite The test will not be easy; on the contrary, it will be extremely difficult.
to the contrary
1 : on the contrary


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , -ˌtre-rē, sense 4 often kən-ˈtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) \

Definition of contrary (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : being so different as to be at opposite extremes : opposite come to the contrary conclusion went off in contrary directions also : being opposite to or in conflict with each other contrary viewpoints
2 : being not in conformity with what is usual or expected actions contrary to company policy contrary evidence
3 : unfavorable used of wind or weather
4 : temperamentally unwilling to accept control or advice


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , -ˌtre-rē also kən-ˈtrer-ē\

Definition of contrary (Entry 3 of 3)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from contrary


contrarily \ ˈkän-​ˌtrer-​ə-​lē How to pronounce contrarily (audio) , kən-​ˈtrer-​ \ adverb
contrariness \ ˈkän-​ˌtrer-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce contrariness (audio) , kən-​ˈtrer-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for contrary

Synonyms: Noun

antipode, antithesis, counter, negative, obverse, opposite, reverse

Synonyms: Adjective

antipodal, antipodean, antithetical, contradictory, diametric (or diametrical), opposite, polar

Antonyms: Adjective


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for contrary


contrary, perverse, restive, balky, wayward mean inclined to resist authority or control. contrary implies a temperamental unwillingness to accept orders or advice. a contrary child perverse may imply wrongheaded, determined, or cranky opposition to what is reasonable or normal. a perverse, intractable critic restive suggests unwillingness or inability to submit to discipline or follow orders. tired soldiers growing restive balky suggests a refusing to proceed in a desired direction or course of action. a balky witness wayward suggests strong-willed capriciousness and irregularity in behavior. a school for wayward youths

synonyms see in addition opposite

Examples of contrary in a Sentence


As kiss-and-tell books go, "Opening Arguments" by Jeffrey Toobin has few, if any, deep and sensuous secrets to reveal—this despite many news stories to the contrary. — Nina Totenberg, New York Times Book Review, March 31, 1991 He was not, despite the mythology he and his press agents so assiduously manufactured, a risk taker. On the contrary, he was more often timid to the point of fecklessness. — Christopher Buckley, New York Times Book Review, 4 Nov. 1990 Other men—a surprising number of them—do not feel anger or blame. On the contrary, they feel a strong blood tie to their fathers, and to them the discipline was a minor thing. — Robert Bly, Iron John, 1990 "Is this the girl who has moved into Villa Villekulla?" asked one of the policemen. "Quite the contrary," said Pippi. "This is a tiny little auntie who lives on the third floor at the other end of the town." — Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking, (1950) 1978 the admonition that we should not return hate with hate, but rather with its contrary—love


Kicking Wolf was a very contrary man—he did as he pleased. — Larry McMurtry, Dead Man's Walk, 1995 At sunrise 4 January she set sail, and the homeward passage began. Two days later, Columbus sighted Pinta sailing in a contrary direction … — Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America, 1974 Mistress Mary got up from the log at once. She knew she felt contrary again, and obstinate, and she did not care at all. — Frances Hodgson, The Secret Garden, 1911 The sisters gave contrary answers: one said “yes” and one said “no.” We had contrary opinions on the issue. Without contrary evidence, the jury will find her guilty. The boat sailed against a contrary wind. Contrary weather impeded the rescue efforts.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Unless proof to the contrary, PG&E is assumed to be the ignition source if their energized wires are present. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Environmentalists at root of state’s wildfire problem," 29 Aug. 2019 After advising legislators to the contrary, Oregon’s Department of Justice decided the bill does just that., "Williamson doubles down on death penalty law: Steve Duin," 28 Aug. 2019 To the contrary, courage paints a target on our backs and invites the mob to dig into our past, to mine our every statement for our worst moment. Matt Shapiro, National Review, "Conservatives Need More Than Courage," 28 Aug. 2019 Despite the president’s claims to the contrary, the Obama administration did impose select tariffs against Chinese products—such as tires, steel pipes and lawn mowers—but the Trump tariffs have been far more widespread. Bob Sellers, Fortune, "Tariff Man: Behind Trump Economic Advisor Peter Navarro’s Long Quest to Ratchet Up the Trade War With China," 27 Aug. 2019 As is the case with climate change, with vaccines, and—despite Texas Senator John Cornyn’s tweet to the contrary—homelessness and gun violence, scientists have been presenting policymakers with viable solutions for years. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "How to Reduce Gun Violence: Ask Some Scientists," 6 Aug. 2019 Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation. Maria Pasquini,, "Prince Andrew Denies Witnessing or Suspecting Criminal Abuse from Former Friend Jeffrey Epstein," 24 Aug. 2019 To the contrary, the U.S.’s presence in Eurasia is indispensable to keep our rivals in check and sustain our security. Jakub Grygiel, National Review, "The Role of Values in Foreign Policy," 21 Aug. 2019 All arguments to the contrary ignore the urgent need for resolution, the inherent suitability of the state court to bring about that resolution, and the importance of that resolution to the future conduct of these bankruptcy cases. J.d. Morris,, "PG&E’s role in the 2017 Tubbs Fire to go to jury trial," 16 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

When faced with competing demands from co-equal branches of government, Don will follow his former client’s instruction, absent a contrary decision from the federal judiciary. Alana Abramson, Time, "House Democrats Take Don McGahn to Court Over Ignoring Their Subpoena to Testify," 7 Aug. 2019 However, contrary claims have since both dismissed Arsenal's interest and suggested up to four Premier League clubs are interested in the Brazilian before Thursday's transfer deadline., "Philippe Coutinho Tipped for Shock Loan Move With Four Premier League Clubs Linked," 6 Aug. 2019 One senior administration official offered a contrary view to that of his colleagues, saying that the talks so far had been positive and constructive. Anchorage Daily News, "With the global economy slowing and the U.S.-China trade war escalating, Trump arrives at G-7 with a list of grievances," 24 Aug. 2019 The fraud stereotype is also often pushed back as an unfair generalization, with successes within Nigeria’s startup and tech ecosystem cited as contrary evidence. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "The FBI’s Nigerian email scam ring bust shows how the billion-dollar global fraud has evolved," 23 Aug. 2019 Turns out though that for better or worse and no matter what this dude Marcus Aurelius might have said to the contrary sadness travels well across borders. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, "This Month in Books: ‘The Minor Figure Yields to the Chorus’," 13 Aug. 2019 But staying put would run contrary Barrett's original vision, so this year, the action moves to another mid-size New England city, Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Kenneth Partridge, Billboard, "The Mighty Mighty Bosstones on Expanding Their Ska Festival In Its Second Year," 24 July 2019 Not everyone gets a day off of work on that Monday in September though, as contrary as that may seem to the holiday's mission. Rebekah Lowin, Country Living, "Which Stores Are Open on Labor Day 2019?," 7 Aug. 2019 Unsurprisingly, McConnell's particular take on the subject was widely viewed as ahistorical and highly contrary. Graeme Mcmillan, WIRED, "While You Were Offline: The President Is Running for President, FYI," 23 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The suspect was not wearing an explosives-laden belt, Van der Sypt said, contrary to an initial eyewitness account from a railway official. Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, "Suspect in foiled Brussels attack was 36-year-old Moroccan, authorities say," 21 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contrary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of contrary


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for contrary

Noun, Adjective, and Adverb

Middle English contrarie, from Anglo-French contraire, contrairie, from Medieval Latin contrarius, from Latin, adjective, opposite, adverse, from contra opposite

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about contrary

Statistics for contrary

Last Updated

11 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contrary

The first known use of contrary was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for contrary



English Language Learners Definition of contrary

: exactly opposite to something else : entirely different from something else
: against or opposed to something
: not favorable or helpful


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) \
plural contraries

Kids Definition of contrary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something opposite … we never see the true state of our condition till it is illustrated to us by its contraries— Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
on the contrary
: just the opposite : no You look tired. On the contrary, I'm wide awake.


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē, 4 is often kən-ˈtrer-ē\

Kids Definition of contrary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : exactly opposite Their opinion is contrary to mine.
2 : being against what is usual or expected Her actions are contrary to school policy.
3 : not favorable contrary weather
4 : unwilling to accept control or advice a contrary child

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on contrary

What made you want to look up contrary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!