con·​trary | \ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē, -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, -ˌtre-rē, sense 4 often kən-ˈtrer-ē \

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, -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, kən-​ˈtrer-​ \ adverb
contrariness \ˈkän-​ˌtrer-​ē-​nəs, kən-​ˈtrer-​ \ noun

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Despite impressions to the contrary, this tendency to agree seems to have strengthened in recent years. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Trump Misjudges America’s Courts," 27 Nov. 2018 Still, the Trump administration last month stood behind its support for that campaign with weaponry, logistics and intelligence, certifying that the Saudis were taken adequate steps to prevent civilian despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Matthew Pennington, The Seattle Times, "US seeks answers about missing writer from Saudi ally," 9 Oct. 2018 To the contrary, Congress expressly preserved state regulation of all communications services through consumer protection, tort, or other state law remedies, and warned against implied preemption. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Ajit Pai helped Charter kill consumer-protection rules in Minnesota," 10 Sep. 2018 Perhaps no place is as ambivalent about beavers as California, where the Department of Fish and Wildlife once claimed—despite ample evidence to the contrary—that the animals were not native to much of the state. Ben Goldfarb, Science | AAAS, "Beaver dams without beavers? Artificial logjams are a popular but controversial restoration tool," 7 June 2018 On the contrary, the 24-year-old, whose toe was turning black due to the brutal negative-40-degree temperatures and repeated banging on his boots, was overcome with pride for his dad. Christina Capatides, CBS News, "Expedition Antarctica: A father and son's journey to save the planet," 22 June 2018 On the contrary, those who oppose him are subjected to police questioning. Anjali Kamat, The New Republic, "Political Corruption and the Art of the Deal," 21 Mar. 2018 On the contrary, click through the gallery below to see the Houston-area schools with the best teachers A Texas teacher is in hot water after recording his student in a classroom fistfight instead of stepping in to try and break it up. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "Texas teacher records classroom fight instead of stopping it," 26 Feb. 2018 On the contrary, Massimiliano Allegri's outfit are in an excellent vein of form, amassing 22 points from 24 matches since their 2-1 away defeat to Sampdoria in November., "Chievo Verona vs Juventus Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Prediction & More," 26 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The godson to Prince Philip and cousin of Prince Charles, Hicks is, despite his children's occasional claims to contrary, anything but snobbish. Jennifer Wright, Town & Country, "Hard to Believe This Wasn't the Wedding of the Summer, or All Time," 9 Sep. 2015 Gainsborough is an elusive and often contrary subject. Maxwell Carter, WSJ, "‘Gainsborough’ Review: A Special Light Shone Out of Him," 25 May 2018 The result is what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described in congressional testimony on Thursday as ‘‘contrary impulses.’’ On the one hand, Trump wants the United States to have nothing to do with Syria. Washington Post,, "Trump’s strikes on Syria risk retaliation, escalation in a war he wants to avoid," 14 Apr. 2018 Driven in part by their contrary lifestyles and networks, elites and nonelites hold radically different core values. Joan C. Williams, WSJ, "The Elites Feed Anti-Immigrant Bias," 9 July 2018 As for facing backlash for being openly critical, Maidique said punishing a professor for expressinga contrary opinion goes against the fundamental tenets of a university's academic freedom. Colleen Wright, miamiherald, "FIU board, eyeing opportunity and punishment, considers renaming Maidique campus," 18 June 2018 In short, despite the Government’s efforts to paint a contrary picture, this is not a case containing direct, probative evidence of anticompetitive intent on the part of high level executives within the merging company. Joe Palazzolo, WSJ, "Decoding Judge Leon's AT&T-Time Warner Decision," 12 June 2018 On the other hand, the court has said that the federal government may regulate all sorts of things directly and that federal laws pre-empt contrary state laws under the Constitution’s supremacy clause. Adam Liptak, Anchorage Daily News, "Supreme Court strikes down ban on commercial sports betting, paving the way for more states to allow it," 14 May 2018 Those who opposed him or who hold contrary opinions rarely get an audience and seldom see any expenditure of political capital. Philip Bump, Washington Post, "Kellyanne Conway informs us that Trump is ‘always listening’ (to those who agree with him)," 23 Feb. 2018

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


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


see contrary entry 1


see contrary entry 1

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Statistics for contrary

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for contrary

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

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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 \
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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Comments on contrary

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