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)

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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

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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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

Noun 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 Adjective 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And despite President Trump’s allegations to the contrary, research shows that vote-by-mail fraud is extremely rare. Lisa Lerer, New York Times, "Your Questions: Voting by Mail, Tara Reade, Congressional Travel," 14 May 2020 But most of the empirical evidence thus far points to the contrary. David Zweig, Wired, "The Case for Reopening Schools," 11 May 2020 Naturalists say the animals have always been around us and there’s no evidence that their numbers are greater, despite all the social media postings to the contrary. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Trump targets new green cards," 22 Apr. 2020 And despite some recent rumors to the contrary, doctors still recommend taking medications your doctor may have prescribed for blood pressure, including ACE inhibitors and ARBs, the American Heart Association says. Ryan Prior, CNN, "Those with high blood pressure are at a greater risk for Covid-19. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself," 17 Apr. 2020 To the contrary, the First Lady, the Vice-President, several ministers, and prominent politicians had urged people to take to the streets that Sunday. Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker, "From the Streets to the Nursing Homes: How Spain’s Coronavirus-Infection Rate Became One of the World’s Highest," 16 Apr. 2020 In over a dozen interviews, not one betrayed an opinion to the contrary. oregonlive, "6 ways to help Oregon artists out of work because of the coronavirus," 25 Mar. 2020 Orders of protection and temporary injunctions that would expire between March 16-April 16, are extended until April 16, unless the trial court elects to enter an order to the contrary. John Sharp |, al, "Alabama’s state and local courts suspending in-person proceedings," 14 Mar. 2020 On the contrary, the league was just one boat on the river Thursday, one of the most remarkable American sports has ever seen. Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star, "NCAA cancels 2020 men's, women's basketball tournaments due to rising coronavirus concerns," 12 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective There weren’t people there who took the absence of evidence to be evidence for the theory, or who reinterpreted contrary evidence to somehow support their theory. Marshall Allen, ProPublica, "“Immune to Evidence”: How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies Spread," 17 May 2020 When faced with competing demands from coequal branches of government, Don will follow his former client’s instruction, absent a contrary decision from the federal judiciary. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "Pondering Impeachment, House Sues Don McGahn, Ex-White House Counsel, for Testimony," 7 Aug. 2019 At a news conference afterward, Trump famously accepted Putin’s denial of having interfered with the 2016 U.S. election, despite the contrary conclusions of his own intelligence officials. Eli Stokols,, "Trump arrives in Japan for G-20 and talks with Putin and Xi," 27 June 2019 But doctors inside Wuhan were already sharing contrary news. Laurie Garrett, The New Republic, "How Trump and Xi set the stage for the coronavirus pandemic," 2 Apr. 2020 While less combative than their combustible client, the lawyers relentlessly assailed the prosecution’s interpretation of events, accusing House Democrats of cherry-picking facts and leaving out contrary information to construct a skewed narrative. Peter Baker,, "Trump defense begins by accusing Democrats of subverting election," 25 Jan. 2020 Any vessel attempting to do so encounters contrary winds and dangerous waterspouts, these barriers having been set up by the S.R.S.C., the Society for the Removal of Superfluous Children. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "Before Tolkien created hobbits, there were Snergs. And oh, how delightful they were!," 26 June 2019 The lawmaker’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are public forums and should not discriminate against those with contrary views, the lawsuit said. Bill Rankin, ajc, "Critic of lawmaker Ehrhart files federal suit over Facebook blocks," 31 Mar. 2020 Advisers resist offering bad news, contrary views, or criticism to the president, knowing they would be ignored or worse. Yuval Levin, National Review, "Washington’s Response to the Virus," 18 Mar. 2020 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for contrary

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for contrary

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contrary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for contrary


How to pronounce contrary (audio) How to pronounce contrary (audio)

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

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