con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , -ˌtre-rē \
plural contraries

Definition of contrary

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a fact or condition incompatible with another : opposite usually used with the
2 : one of a pair of opposites
3a : a proposition (see proposition entry 1 sense 2a) so related to another that though both may be false they cannot both be true — compare subcontrary
b : either of two terms (such as good and evil) that cannot both be affirmed of the same subject
by contraries
obsolete : in a manner opposite to what is logical or expected
on the contrary
: just the opposite The test will not be easy; on the contrary, it will be extremely difficult.
to the contrary
1 : on the contrary


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , -ˌtre-rē, sense 4 often kən-ˈtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) \

Definition of contrary (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : being so different as to be at opposite extremes : opposite come to the contrary conclusion went off in contrary directions also : being opposite to or in conflict with each other contrary viewpoints
2 : being not in conformity with what is usual or expected actions contrary to company policy contrary evidence
3 : unfavorable used of wind or weather
4 : temperamentally unwilling to accept control or advice


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , -ˌtre-rē also kən-ˈtrer-ē \

Definition of contrary (Entry 3 of 3)

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Other Words from contrary


contrarily \ ˈkän-​ˌtrer-​ə-​lē How to pronounce contrary (audio) , kən-​ˈtrer-​ \ adverb
contrariness \ ˈkän-​ˌtrer-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce contrary (audio) , kən-​ˈtrer-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for contrary

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for contrary


contrary, perverse, restive, balky, wayward mean inclined to resist authority or control. contrary implies a temperamental unwillingness to accept orders or advice. a contrary child perverse may imply wrongheaded, determined, or cranky opposition to what is reasonable or normal. a perverse, intractable critic restive suggests unwillingness or inability to submit to discipline or follow orders. tired soldiers growing restive balky suggests a refusing to proceed in a desired direction or course of action. a balky witness wayward suggests strong-willed capriciousness and irregularity in behavior. a school for wayward youths

synonyms see in addition opposite

Examples of contrary in a Sentence

Noun As kiss-and-tell books go, "Opening Arguments" by Jeffrey Toobin has few, if any, deep and sensuous secrets to reveal—this despite many news stories to the contrary. — Nina Totenberg, New York Times Book Review, March 31, 1991 He was not, despite the mythology he and his press agents so assiduously manufactured, a risk taker. On the contrary, he was more often timid to the point of fecklessness. — Christopher Buckley, New York Times Book Review, 4 Nov. 1990 Other men—a surprising number of them—do not feel anger or blame. On the contrary, they feel a strong blood tie to their fathers, and to them the discipline was a minor thing. — Robert Bly, Iron John, 1990 "Is this the girl who has moved into Villa Villekulla?" asked one of the policemen. "Quite the contrary," said Pippi. "This is a tiny little auntie who lives on the third floor at the other end of the town." — Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking, (1950) 1978 the admonition that we should not return hate with hate, but rather with its contrary—love Adjective Kicking Wolf was a very contrary man—he did as he pleased. — Larry McMurtry, Dead Man's Walk, 1995 At sunrise 4 January she set sail, and the homeward passage began. Two days later, Columbus sighted Pinta sailing in a contrary direction … — Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America, 1974 Mistress Mary got up from the log at once. She knew she felt contrary again, and obstinate, and she did not care at all. — Frances Hodgson, The Secret Garden, 1911 The sisters gave contrary answers: one said “yes” and one said “no.” We had contrary opinions on the issue. Without contrary evidence, the jury will find her guilty. The boat sailed against a contrary wind. Contrary weather impeded the rescue efforts.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Teachers unions claim that school choice is a zero-sum game, but evidence is mounting to the contrary. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "School Choice Scores for Public Schools," 26 Mar. 2021 Free agency is a two-way street, and this is where the Ravens, despite their protestations to the contrary, run into trouble with their low-volume passing offense. Childs Walker,, "Five Things We Learned from the Ravens’ first week in the free-agent market," 22 Mar. 2021 But as undeniable evidence has piled up to the contrary, expecting evangelical youth to ignore or deny this existential threat to their futures has, for some, proved a bridge too far. Alex Morris, Rolling Stone, "For These Young Evangelical Activists, Facing the Climate Crisis Is an Act of Faith," 21 Mar. 2021 Indeed, whatever its instincts to the contrary, this would be its best chance of success . . . Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Putting the Grift in ESG," 20 Mar. 2021 But some legal experts argue that gig workers already are employees under current federal law, despite corporate claims to the contrary. Caitlin Harrington, Wired, "Some Amazon Drivers Have Had Enough. Can They Unionize?," 19 Mar. 2021 To the contrary, people will pay more to wear what works for them. Tom Teicholz, Forbes, "Fred Segal’s Lasting Influence," 19 Mar. 2021 To the contrary, today’s wars, if anything, require more strength and more endurance. The Editors, National Review, "The Army Considers Backtracking on Its New Gender-Neutral Fitness Test," 16 Mar. 2021 Despite their public stance to the contrary, the 49ers have been looking for an upgrade since the offseason started. Vincent Frank, Forbes, "How Cam Newton’s Contract Impacts The San Francisco 49ers And Jimmy Garoppolo," 12 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Women in positions like Toomey’s have less freedom than their male counterparts to express contrary opinions, said state Rep. Rebecca Mitchell, D-Snellville, an epidemiologist who worked under Toomey in Botswana. Alan Judd, ajc, "Georgia governor ignored experts as the pandemic raged," 26 Mar. 2021 To reach its contrary judgment, the majority must conflate a seizure with its attempt and confuse an arrest with a battery. Devin Dwyer, ABC News, "Supreme Court says police shootings are momentary 'seizures" under 4th Amendment," 25 Mar. 2021 But the Biden administration has displayed a contrary attitude on the issue. Nicholas Rowan, Washington Examiner, "Merrick Garland faces first death penalty test in Boston Marathon bomber case," 17 Mar. 2021 Nothing has changed since then – whatever Rishi Sunak may say to the contrary tomorrow. David Prosser, Forbes, "Why Rishi Sunak Should Avoid A Budget Tax Hike For Self Employed," 2 Mar. 2021 Ishiguro, a practitioner of self-effacing craft, takes a contrary approach. New York Times, "Kazuo Ishiguro Sees What the Future Is Doing to Us," 23 Feb. 2021 Actually, just the contrary…death has lost the battle. al, "Samford University’s former campus minister, professor dies," 23 Feb. 2021 Around here, that’s Joe Montana, and no mountain of contrary evidence will ever sway this crowd. Bruce Jenkins,, "Is Tom Brady losing it? An all-time great showing signs of unraveling," 27 Nov. 2020 To argue the contrary position was to be derided as an isolationist, an appeaser, or a pacifist—and to be rendered ineligible for election to high office. Andrew J. Bacevich, The New Republic, "Will 2020 Finally Kill America’s War Fetish?," 9 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb The suspect was not wearing an explosives-laden belt, Van der Sypt said, contrary to an initial eyewitness account from a railway official. Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, "Suspect in foiled Brussels attack was 36-year-old Moroccan, authorities say," 21 June 2017

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for contrary

Noun, Adjective, and Adverb

Middle English contrarie, from Anglo-French contraire, contrairie, from Medieval Latin contrarius, from Latin, adjective, opposite, adverse, from contra opposite

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Time Traveler for contrary

Time Traveler

The first known use of contrary was in the 13th century

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Statistics for contrary

Last Updated

2 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Contrary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for contrary



English Language Learners Definition of contrary

: exactly opposite to something else : entirely different from something else
: against or opposed to something
: not favorable or helpful


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio) \
plural contraries

Kids Definition of contrary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something opposite … we never see the true state of our condition till it is illustrated to us by its contraries— Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
on the contrary
: just the opposite : no You look tired. On the contrary, I'm wide awake.


con·​trary | \ ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē, 4 is often kən-ˈtrer-ē \

Kids Definition of contrary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : exactly opposite Their opinion is contrary to mine.
2 : being against what is usual or expected Her actions are contrary to school policy.
3 : not favorable contrary weather
4 : unwilling to accept control or advice a contrary child

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