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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Patrick Somerville, the show’s creator, saw the story as a necessary counterpoint to all the doom and mayhem. Steve Dollar, Los Angeles Times, 14 June 2022 Even the neutral-walled interior of the Haus makes a statement, acting as counterpoint to the museum’s dark exterior to convey Montblanc’s signature colors of black and white. Nancy Olson, Forbes, 16 May 2022 At one point on Sunday, a few birds made themselves at home inside the Shed, layering their own counterpoint. Jeremy Eichler,, 11 July 2022 From a unique front face that will soon become instantly recognizable to its long, sleek lines and beautiful detailing, it could be seen as the modern counterpoint to the Cadillacs of the '50s. Csaba Csere, Car and Driver, 28 June 2022 Yet there are elements of Jane Austen there too, as Mr. Malcolm’s List leans more satirical than its obvious television counterpoint. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 June 2022 The silly group antics of the Retirement House are a welcome counterpoint to stories of isolated elders quietly diminishing in nursing homes during the pandemic. New York Times, 25 May 2022 This room's light wood walls act as the perfect counterpoint to the dark bunk bed frame. Mariah Thomas, Good Housekeeping, 1 May 2022 But here’s my counterpoint: Video games, particularly big-budget games, are bad at confronting these themes. Washington Post, 5 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb To counterpoint the home, decorated in shades of green, pink and ochre, her middle school had splashes of color incorporated in posters, particularly in Mei’s science and math clubs. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 11 Mar. 2022 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 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near counterpoint



counterpoint rhythm

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Last Updated

29 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Counterpoint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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