counterpoint

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

Definition of counterpoint

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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
2a : a complementing or contrasting item : opposite
b : use of contrast or interplay of elements in a work of art (such as a drama)

counterpoint

verb
counterpointed; counterpointing; counterpoints

Definition of counterpoint (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

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

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

The spectacle outside the rally on Monday served as a visual and visceral counterpoint. Manny Fernandez, The Seattle Times, "Line for Trump’s Houston rally formed more than a day in advance," 22 Oct. 2018 Even the counter stools offer a bold counterpoint to the rest of the room. Ayn-monique Tetreault-rooney Klahre, Woman's Day, "What's Your Decorating Style?," 9 Nov. 2010 Foy’s performance is the counterpoint to Gosling’s. Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, "‘First Man’: Ryan Gosling is stellar as astronaut Neil Armstrong," 8 Oct. 2018 Even with demure full sleeves, her dress highlighted her bombshell figure, and the touches of lace were an elegant counterpoint to the flashes of gold throughout. Maria Ward, Vogue, "Catherine Zeta-Jones Makes the Case for Matchy-Matchy Accessories," 22 May 2018 Or opt for the relative complexities of a Green Pie that conjures a garden of earthy delight, a peppery herbal kick of arugula pesto, the anise lilt of fresh basil and a counterpoint frisson of fried sage leaves. Beth Segal, cleveland.com, "Il Rione Pizzeria: A passion for pizza in Gordon Square," 11 May 2018 The minimalist decor and casually artsy environment set Man Mo Dim Sum apart from its typical Cantonese counterpoints—and from every other spot on touristy Upper Lascar Row. Janice Leung Hayes, Condé Nast Traveler, "19 Best Dim Sum Spots in Hong Kong," 5 Mar. 2018 Photo: Tate Restaurant Fabulous Fusion: TATE Tate’s hushed but unstuffy dining room and bar, with bleached wooden paneling and pink upholstered booths, is a refined counterpoint to the raucous cocktail dens further along Hollywood Road. Eric Rosen, WSJ, "How Young Chefs Are Making Their Marks on Hong Kong’s Fine Food Scene," 10 Dec. 2018 These rental units are the wee-sized counterpoint to the Think Big! of the '80s. Annemarie Conte, Woman's Day, "'I Took a Surprise Vacation and Finally Gave Up Some Control'," 8 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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, OregonLive.com, "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, chicagotribune.com, "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 Heads are often presented in the lower half of the image, counterpointed with open space (where God resides?) and the details of the confining environments in which their lives play out. Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Apostasy': Film Review | San Sebastian 2017," 9 Oct. 2017 Traffic on the adjacent road, jets rumbling overhead, clicking spokes of passing bicycles, the frictive thrum of a skateboard, the crunch of your own footsteps — all shift from background noise to counterpoint for the tones emanating from above. Leah Ollman, latimes.com, "Composer John Luther Adams' new campus 'Wind Garden' art installation is heard more than it is seen," 23 Aug. 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

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1875, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for counterpoint

Noun

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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Last Updated

27 Feb 2019

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

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More Definitions for counterpoint

counterpoint

noun

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

counterpoint

verb

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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More from Merriam-Webster on counterpoint

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with counterpoint

Spanish Central: Translation of counterpoint

Nglish: Translation of counterpoint for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about counterpoint

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