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 On the contrary, Kubiak would go on to play a key role in Kyle Shanahan’s coaching ascension. Matt Kawahara,, "49ers’ Kyle Shanahan reflects on Vikings’ Gary Kubiak’s impact on coaching career," 7 Jan. 2020 On the contrary, previous data suggested face-recognition ability cannot be modified after the first few weeks of life. Sarah Bate, Scientific American, "New Promise for Those Who Suffer from Face Blindness," 26 Dec. 2019 On the contrary, throughout the history of the 20th century, far-right groups in Europe always considered the United States to be more of a nemesis than an ideal to look up to. Sylvia Taschka, The Conversation, "Trump’s America shines bright for Europe’s radical New Right," 7 Oct. 2019 Lori Daybell is a devoted mother and resents assertions to the contrary. Fox News, "Attorney for 'cult' couple on run in Idaho calls them 'loving', 'devoted' parents, says they've been in touch: report," 24 Dec. 2019 The team navigated treacherous whitewater and lost supplies—and emerged alive, despite news reports to the contrary. Pete Mcbride, National Geographic, "Have you found insight on your journeys?," 24 Dec. 2019 To the contrary, Pelosi & Co. want this train wreck in the rearview mirror ASAP. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "If Impeachment Articles Are Not Delivered, Did Impeachment Happen?," 19 Dec. 2019 To the contrary, the inspector general concluded that the FBI had legitimate reasons to investigate Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election. Doyle Mcmanus, Twin Cities, "Doyle McManus: The FBI gets another black eye," 13 Dec. 2019 There is only one Cher, despite some evidence to the contrary. Jim Kiest,, "Cher bringing hits, costumes, ABBA tunes to San Antonio’s AT&T Center on ‘Here We Go Again’ tour," 11 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Your desire for lighthearted social interactions is turned up high, but unpredictable or deliberately contrary people can try your patience. Magi Helena, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Jan. 3, 2020: Happy birthday Mel Gibson; Scorpio, don’t trade one problem for another," 3 Jan. 2020 Prior to contrary reports yesterday, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is not spending her six-week-long sabbatical from royal duties planning the Stateside launch of the Sussex Royal Foundation. Bianca Betancourt, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Is Not Plotting the U.S. Expansion of Sussex Foundation While on Royal Break," 11 Dec. 2019 The Turkish state and army are beyond reproach; suggestions to the contrary border on treason. The Economist, "How genocide denial warps Turkish politics," 7 Nov. 2019 This deception has surfaced repeatedly, in the face of contrary words from his military people and sometimes from his own statements acknowledging that bringing the soldiers back doesn't mean right now, or on any schedule that he's disclosed. Hope Yen And Calvin Woodward,, "The president said a lot of things this week that aren’t true. Here are some of them.," 26 Oct. 2019 Edison’s father, stubborn, contrary and fiercely libertarian, had bounced between the United States and Canada to elude authorities from both countries who thought him obsessively disloyal. David Oshinsky, New York Times, "An Inventor’s Life That Was Incandescent Any Way You Look at It," 22 Oct. 2019 In the new collection, Olive is still a contrary woman, blunt and condescending. San Diego Union-Tribune, "New stories of an aging Olive in ‘Olive, Again’," 14 Oct. 2019 Giuliani, however, had contrary thoughts—to his mind, Romania had been too effective in cleaning up the corruption corroding its public services. Casey Michel, The New Republic, "Rudy Giuliani’s Year of Living Dangerously," 26 Sep. 2019 In addition to the House Science Committee’s investigation, other groups are initiating probes into NOAA’s decision back Trump’s claim that Alabama was at risk from Hurricane Dorian, despite contrary forecasts from its own scientists., "WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump directed his staff to order the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to prepare a statement that Hurricane Dorian posed a significant threat to Alabama as of Sept. 1, in contrast to what the agency’s forecasters were predicting at the time.," 12 Sep. 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.

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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

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contrary.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 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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