con·​trast | \kən-ˈtrast, ˈkän-ˌtrast \
contrasted; contrasting; contrasts

Definition of contrast 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

: to set off in contrast : compare or appraise in respect to differences Contrast European and American manners. Contrast the two major characters of the novel. often used with to or with contrasting the painter with her contemporaries

intransitive verb

: to form a contrast


con·​trast | \ˈkän-ˌtrast \

Definition of contrast (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : juxtaposition of dissimilar elements (such as color, tone, or emotion) in a work of art

b : degree of difference between the lightest and darkest parts of a picture

2a : the difference or degree of difference between things having similar or comparable natures the contrast between the two forms of government

b : comparison of similar objects to set off their dissimilar qualities By contrast with newer models, the computer operates slowly. : the state of being so compared In contrast to the other estimates, his was very high.

3 : a person or thing that exhibits differences when compared with another The gentle girl is a contrast to the arrogant woman.

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Other Words from contrast


contrastable \kən-​ˈtra-​stə-​bəl, ˈkän-​ˌtra-​ \ adjective
contrastingly \kən-​ˈtra-​stiŋ-​lē, ˈkän-​ˌtra-​ \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for contrast


compare, contrast, collate mean to set side by side in order to show differences and likenesses. compare implies an aim of showing relative values or excellences by bringing out characteristic qualities whether similar or divergent. compared the convention facilities of the two cities contrast implies an emphasis on differences. contrasted the computerized system with the old filing cards collate implies minute and critical inspection in order to note points of agreement or divergence. data from districts around the country will be collated

Examples of contrast in a Sentence


Her black dress and the white background contrast sharply. We compared and contrasted the two characters of the story.


I observed an interesting contrast in the teaching styles of the two women. Careful contrast of the twins shows some differences. In contrast to last year's profits, the company is not doing very well. The queen's wit and humor made the prince seem dull by contrast. They spent millions of dollars on advertising. By way of contrast, our small company spent under 5,000 dollars.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Two contrasting visions of the future electricity grid The electricity sector is changing rapidly and the grid is changing with it. David Roberts, Vox, "Clean energy technologies threaten to overwhelm the grid. Here’s how it can adapt.," 30 Nov. 2018 Newsletter Sign-up The Federal Trade Commission requires that native ads be labeled clearly and prominently—such as in easy-to-read fonts, distinguishable colors and contrasting shades—to avoid deceiving consumers. Laura Stevens, WSJ, "New Parents Complain Amazon Baby-Registry Ads Are Deceptive," 28 Nov. 2018 In the photos, the Duchess of Cambridge wears a navy polka-dot dress with a contrasting ivory collar by Alessandra Rich. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "Kate Middleton's Dress Is So Similar to This Famous Princess Diana Polka-Dot Look," 14 Nov. 2018 Both are sleekly clad in black and have a contrasting light pine interior that seems to be the company’s calling card. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Ultra-stylish tiny house comes with fold-down deck," 9 Nov. 2018 The trail offers beautiful autumn surprises—evergreen trees covered in moss provide a contrasting background for the red splashes of vine maples and the yellow hues of big leaf maples, while mushrooms in many colors sprout from the ground. Audrey Bruno, SELF, "The 15 Best Places to Go Hiking in the Fall," 28 Oct. 2018 On her feet were nude strappy heels and from her right hand dangled a top-handle bag in a contrasting shade of pale pink. Avery Matera, Teen Vogue, "Emily Ratajkowski Wore a Nude Bodysuit and Pink Trousers," 12 Oct. 2018 With the Georgia governor’s race now set, Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams returned to the campaign trail Thursday, where their approaches proved just as different as their starkly contrasting policies. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "A quick game of quarters," 27 July 2018 The battles underscore the chaotic state of a Democratic Party with no clear leader and plenty of ambitious politicians with contrasting ideologies. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: GOP candidates caught in a bind on Medicaid," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Sinema, by contrast, is pro-choice, prioritizes women’s rights, and advocates for LGBTQ equality. Jill Filipovic, Harper's BAZAAR, "Your State-by-State Guide to Women Running in the Midterms," 31 Oct. 2018 Blum, by contrast, is giving directors like Jordan Peele and Damien Chazelle the cash to make provocative work. Mickey Rapkin, Town & Country, "The Horror of Jason Blum," 17 Oct. 2018 By contrast, the princesses in these stories are all conventionally beautiful, with long, luscious hair and smooth skin. Melissa Blake, Good Housekeeping, "Princess Eugenie's Dress Meant a Lot to Me, Because I Have the Same Scar," 17 Oct. 2018 By way of contrast, his teammate, Marcell Ozuna, homered every 26 at-bats over the same span. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "How Christian Yelich Went From Good to Great," 14 Oct. 2018 This also has the bonus of better contrast compared to the dark gray/light gray buttons of Android 8.1. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Android 9 Pie, thoroughly reviewed," 13 Sep. 2018 The race is one of stark contrasts: Nelson is a throwback to a bygone era when the state’s Democrats talked with a Southern drawl. Gary Fineout, The Seattle Times, "Florida Gov. Scott, US Sen. Nelson head into pricey showdown," 28 Aug. 2018 But Shanghai is a city of contrasts, where the colonial buildings dotting the Bund square off against towering high rises across the Huangpu, where remnants of Western culture intertwine with that of the East. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Bulgari’s New Shanghai Hotel Has Gourmet Chocolates, Fine Jewels...and a Chamber of Commerce," 17 Aug. 2018 As the 91st running of the race approaches, Seward's famous mountain is full of contrasts. Author: Kat Sorensen, Anchorage Daily News, "Mount Marathon race trail has it all: snow, lush vegetation, flowing water and lots of dust," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contrast.' 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 contrast


1646, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


1711, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for contrast


French contraster, from Middle French, to oppose, resist, alteration of contrester, from Vulgar Latin *contrastare, from Latin contra- + stare to stand — more at stand


see contrast entry 1

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Statistics for contrast

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contrast

The first known use of contrast was in 1646

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More Definitions for contrast



English Language Learners Definition of contrast

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to be different especially in a way that is very obvious

: to compare (two people or things) to show how they are different



English Language Learners Definition of contrast (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is different from another thing

: a difference between people or things that are being compared

: the act of comparing people or things to show the differences between them


con·​trast | \kən-ˈtrast \
contrasted; contrasting

Kids Definition of contrast

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to show noticeable differences Red contrasts with black.

2 : to compare two persons or things so as to show the differences between them Contrast the styles of these two authors.


con·​trast | \ˈkän-ˌtrast \

Kids Definition of contrast (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something that is different from another Today's weather is quite a contrast to yesterday's.

2 : difference or the amount of difference (as in color or brightness) between parts a photo with good contrast

3 : difference or amount of difference between related or similar things the contrast between summer and winter

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More from Merriam-Webster on contrast

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with contrast

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contrast

Spanish Central: Translation of contrast

Nglish: Translation of contrast for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contrast for Arabic Speakers

Comments on contrast

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amusing and light sparring with words

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