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 Quartz with the look of white marble, used for the backsplash and countertops, serves as a light, airy counterpoint to the deep green. Lisa Mowry, Better Homes & Gardens, "Lush Backyard Views Inspired the Calming Green Color Scheme in This Traditional Kitchen," 29 June 2020 As a counterpoint, these conversations can also be serious, unplanned moments of reflection. NBC News, "Girls Who Code's Dr. Tarika Barrett: This is how I'm talking to my multiracial kids about racism," 18 June 2020 The new airport serving the Angolan capital of Luanda was intended to be a bright and welcoming symbol of the former Portuguese colony’s renaissance—a counterpoint to the three-decade civil war that ended in 2002. Alonso Soto,, "The Ticking Debt Bomb in Africa Threatens a Global Explosion," 17 June 2020 But Congolese artists have been asked to make a counterpoint, and in the main hall now stands a sculpture of a skull of a Congolese chief who was beheaded by a Belgian. Washington Post, "As protests grow, Belgium faces its racist colonial past," 11 June 2020 That lattice now stands as a counterpoint to the black fence across the street. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, "A White House Tour, from Outside Trump’s Fence," 10 June 2020 As a counterpoint, legal experts suggest the trials may take up to a year, long after the general election is scheduled to be held. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Keith Ellison's George Floyd charges could ignite Minnesota 'tinderbox' if they fail," 5 June 2020 The counterpoint can be found in a Wednesday Twitter thread from Alex Stamos, a security consultant to Zoom who has a history of defending strong encryption against authorities and resisting unwarranted searches of user data. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Zoom defenders cite legit reasons to not end-to-end encrypt free calls," 4 June 2020 The viral arc of Zoom—from trendy industry favorite to privacy pariah to future trivia question—serves as a useful counterpoint to Palantir, which has the staying power of a defense contractor fattening itself on war-time contracts. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "The End of the Backlash to Big Tech," 28 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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,, "Chocolate coconut cookies have intriguing spice notes," 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, "On ‘The New Abnormal,’ the Strokes Flip Nostalgia Toward the Future," 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, "The Top 12 Shows of Paris Fashion Week Fall 2019," 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, "It's not flashy or splashy, but Roseville's Ciao excels at cooking classic Italian," 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,, "Oregon could claw back $1 million tax credit from failed sawmill," 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, "The Philosopher in Dark 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,, "Lyric Opera offers up a sweet celebration of Bernstein at 100," 11 Mar. 2018 But the high adventure is counterpointed at every turn by self-conscious humor. Steve Stern, New York Times, "Broken Promises in the Promised Land," 11 Sep. 2017

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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Counterpoint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for counterpoint


How to pronounce counterpoint (audio)

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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