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)

Other Words from contrary


contrarily \ ˈkän-​ˌtrer-​ə-​lē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , kən-​ˈtrer-​ \ adverb
contrariness \ ˈkän-​ˌtrer-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce contrary (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 On the contrary: his depiction of our impact on nature is considerably more specific and violent than the one in the film, not to mention sadder. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2022 On the contrary, the dead man is under investigation for sacrilege and attempt to murder, Amritsar's police commissioner, Sukhchain Singh Gill, said on December 19. Rhea Mogul And Esha Mitra, CNN, 3 Jan. 2022 On the contrary, the states with the least amount of people fully vaccinated are Idaho, Alabama and Wyoming. Gabriela Miranda, USA TODAY, 24 Dec. 2021 These two positions—that rules embodying strict moral principles generate right outcomes and that, on the contrary, rules may need suspending to arrive at a moral resolution—do battle to this day. Andrew Stark, WSJ, 17 Dec. 2021 On the contrary, being called the n-word is directly correlated with the systemic discrimination and inequity of Black people. Washington Post, 16 Dec. 2021 On the contrary, Val and I outlasted all of those trivial boys…until one wasn’t so trivial anymore. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, 7 Dec. 2021 On the contrary: Opponents have converted on 52.5 percent of third downs in the past three games. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 Nov. 2021 On the contrary, a recent patent filing from Apple depicts a complete overhaul of the familiar Apple Watch design. Yoni Heisler, BGR, 22 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective You will be not ever be supplied in your feed contrary information. Bob Guccione Jr, SPIN, 17 Jan. 2022 On the contrary, sunshine, not showers, is critical to the success of the Minooka, Illinois, family farm, which during the fall season derives its income primarily from a popular agritourism business called Heap’s Giant Pumpkin Farm. Karen Ann Cullotta,, 28 Oct. 2021 On the contrary, extensive research has shown that face masks are safe and do not affect carbon dioxide levels at rest or with exercise—not just for SARS-CoV-2 but for the flu and other respiratory viruses. Time, 17 Aug. 2021 The book is a welcome corrective to the tendency to treat the man as so internally contrary as to be a complete enigma. Stephen Metcalf, The Atlantic, 7 Dec. 2021 But, to the contrary, much could be done if the keepers of the George Balanchine Trust opened his works to new interpretations by dancers and choreographers. The New Yorker, 29 Nov. 2021 There is always the danger, however, that Wall Street Journal readers, being wide-ranging consumers of information, might happen across contrary views on this subject (even on the news pages of the Journal itself!), and thus need to be cautioned. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, 21 Oct. 2021 The fact is, these DFL legislators don't want contrary opinions. Jason George, Star Tribune, 1 Feb. 2021 Her calculations are so visible to us, if not to Maurizio, who never stood a chance, that her character achieves a contrary sort of guilelessness. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 26 Nov. 2021 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, 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

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

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Contrary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on contrary

Nglish: Translation of contrary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contrary for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about contrary


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