coun·​ter·​point | \ ˈkau̇n-tər-ˌpȯint How to pronounce counterpoint (audio) \

Definition of counterpoint

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a complementing or contrasting item : opposite
b : use of contrast or interplay of elements in a work of art (such as a drama)
2a : one or more independent melodies added above or below a given melody
b : the combination of two or more independent melodies into a single harmonic texture in which each retains its linear character : polyphony


counterpointed; counterpointing; counterpoints

Definition of counterpoint (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to set off or emphasize by juxtaposition : set in contrast counterpoints the public and the private man— Tom Bishop
2 : to compose or arrange in counterpoint

Examples of counterpoint in a Sentence

Noun The guitar and bass are played in counterpoint. The dressing is a refreshing counterpoint to the spicy chicken. The painting is a pleasant counterpoint to his earlier works. The music works in counterpoint to the images on the screen. Verb The violence of the movie is counterpointed by ironic humor.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Cheerleading for one side evidently gets better ratings than point-counterpoint. Eric Zorn,, 18 June 2021 Tony Kushner’s overwrought Angels in America gratuitously politicized the AIDS crisis and is considered definitive, but Summer of 85, double-billed with Robin Campillo’s epic BPM, would provide the perfect correction and counterpoint. Armond White, National Review, 18 June 2021 Set in the center of the Paleis Het Loo’s ornate and expertly manicured Baroque gardens, the jagged shapes are a sculptural counterpoint that question humanity’s technological progress. Jacqui Palumbo, CNN, 2 June 2021 The palate virtually pops with vivacity; grapefruit and lime zest run counterpoint to red fruit and peaches, with orange zest tapering on the finish. Sara L. Schneider, Robb Report, 31 May 2021 The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana, affords a reassuring counterpoint to the persistent erasure of uncomfortable facts. Claire Messud, Harper's Magazine, 25 May 2021 There’s nothing like sitting in the park on a hot day, sprawled across a plaid blanket, enjoying a laugh with friends and feeling a gentle, cool breeze on my skin, but—counterpoint—there’s also nothing like TV. Patty Terhune, The New Yorker, 20 May 2021 The counterpoint has outraged public health advocates and raised concerns about fear-mongering and misinformation campaigns. Marissa Evans, Los Angeles Times, 20 May 2021 But a counterpoint to this brain-centric view of sleep has emerged. Quanta Magazine, 18 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Her voice runs free to lead and counterpoint, to embroider around the notes and words, to demonstrate her power, her control, her mastery. Tom Teicholz, Forbes, 16 May 2021 But the very first bite reveals a very pleasing surprise: very subtle but noticeable hints of black pepper and cayenne, not too spicy at all but just enough to counterpoint and emphasize the delicious chocolaty flavor. Wolfgang Puck,, 11 Dec. 2019 The band’s true commitment is to counterpoint: to putting interlocking melody at every level of a song. Jon Pareles, New York Times, 13 Apr. 2020 Both Rick Owens and Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia were at their inventive best, pushing their silhouettes in new, avant-garde directions, while at Dries Van Noten and Alexander McQueen, flawless suiting was counterpointed by seductive flower prints. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, 6 Mar. 2019 Carpaccio di tonno — thin slices of ahi counterpointed by capers, olive oil and peppery arugula — was clean, simple and very good. Kate Washington, sacbee, 8 June 2018 Carolyn Holland, Ecotrust's vice president for communications, would not say what counterpoints the group has about the state's plan to claw back part of the tax credit. Hillary Borrud,, 11 May 2018 Arendt’s sheer delight in intellectual speculation counterpoints her intense ethical commitment to thinking as a form of political engagement. George Prochnik, New York Times, 12 Apr. 2018 The smartest touch is counterpointing the pair’s bickering with the idealized representation of American life presented by a scatting jazz trio, who comment on the action like a Greek chorus of ’50s hepcats. John Von Rhein,, 11 Mar. 2018

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1875, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for counterpoint


Middle English, from Middle French contrepoint, from Medieval Latin contrapunctus, from Latin contra- counter- + Medieval Latin punctus musical note, melody, from Latin, act of pricking, from pungere to prick — more at pungent

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Time Traveler for counterpoint

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The first known use of counterpoint was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

23 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Counterpoint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for counterpoint



English Language Learners Definition of counterpoint

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a combination of two or more melodies that are played together
: a melody played in combination with another
formal : something that is different from something else in usually a pleasing way



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

formal : to put two things together in a way that shows how different they are from each other


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