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 Eric Trump and Gateway Pundit have both circulated misinformation since the election, claiming voter fraud without evidence — or even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. Eric Litke, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Wisconsin county did not have a glitch that stole votes from Trump," 10 Nov. 2020 Despite claims to the contrary by Republicans, the overwhelming character of those demonstrations was nonviolent. Keeanga-yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker, "Voting Trump Out Is Not Enough," 9 Nov. 2020 To the contrary, the Democratic field grew to a floorboard-busting 26 candidates. Los Angeles Times, "Joe Biden elected president; Trump first incumbent defeated in nearly 30 years," 7 Nov. 2020 Pending evidence to the contrary, though, this looks to be an incredibly close and hard-fought, but legitimate, election that Donald Trump still has some chance to win. The Editors, National Review, "An Election in Overtime," 5 Nov. 2020 Despite assertions to the contrary, there never was evidence of widespread election fraud. Editorial Board Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Election update: Stay patient and let the count continue," 3 Nov. 2020 And indeed despite perceptions to the contrary, the US is still making clear its position on supporting democracy. Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa, "The US has championed democracy in Africa for decades, now its own problems show a need for humility," 3 Nov. 2020 Meanwhile, despite claims to the contrary by election vendors, it’s been demonstrated that ballot scanners in precincts in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida use wireless modems that connect to the Internet. Sue Halpern, The New York Review of Books, "Who Owns Our Voting Machines?," 3 Nov. 2020 But on Monday, rumors were swirling on social media to the contrary. Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah liquor stores are open on Election Day — some until 10 p.m.," 3 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective His contrary streak makes his reporting essential even if his proximity to the material hampers his storytelling. Los Angeles Times, "Review: How Broadway got to boom times, from a veteran theater gossip," 18 Nov. 2020 On the contrary, double-crosses abound, as both sides in the brewing gangland war attempt to gain the upper hand through duplicitous means. Nick Schager,, "Fargo recap: A den of double-crossers," 2 Nov. 2020 The Court of Appeals had upheld the Wisconsin law, reversing the contrary District Court decision, and the Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: At the polls, ballot-counting, judicial branch," 30 Oct. 2020 The facts are contrary: The U.S. actually gained 146,000 manufacturing jobs after the president’s tariffs on Chinese goods went into effect July 6, 2018, and before the COVID-19 pandemic forced mass layoffs in March. USA TODAY, "Harris-Pence debate fact check: What they said about COVID, jobs, taxes," 8 Oct. 2020 This is not a question of assimilation — on the contrary, many Hispanic evangelicals primarily speak Spanish and see themselves as outside of any kind of mainstream, set apart by their religious views as much as their ethnicity. Jennifer Medina, New York Times, "Latino, Evangelical and Politically Homeless," 12 Oct. 2020 And as for Trump’s undercutting of public health officials, officials are quick to point to contrary medical opinions. Jonathan Lemire, Anchorage Daily News, "Cavalier White House approach to COVID-19 catches up to Trump," 3 Oct. 2020 This insight could also help explain delusional thinking, in which false beliefs remain impenetrable to contrary evidence. Michele Solis, Scientific American, "We Learn Faster When We Aren’t Told What Choices to Make," 1 Oct. 2020 The agency’s earlier guidance to the contrary baffled health experts who couldn’t fathom why the nation’s top public health agency would say such a thing amid a pandemic that has been difficult to control. Chronicle Staff,, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: Sept. 18-19," 22 Sep. 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

15 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contrary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 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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