contrary

1 of 3

noun

con·​trary ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
-ˌtre-rē
plural contraries
1
: a fact or condition incompatible with another : opposite
usually used with the
2
: one of a pair of opposites
3
a
: 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

contrary

2 of 3

adjective

con·​trary ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
-ˌtre-rē,
sense 4 often
kən-ˈtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
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
contrarily
ˈkän-ˌtrer-ə-lē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
kən-ˈtrer-
adverb
contrariness noun

contrary

3 of 3

adverb

con·​trary ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
-ˌtre-rē,
 also  kən-ˈtrer-ē
Phrases
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
2
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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The pandemic is not over, despite some proclamations to the contrary. Simon Makin, Scientific American, 8 Feb. 2023 Through it all, Mitchell has insisted that every one of his records was set on unmodified Donkey Kong arcade hardware, despite some convincing technical evidence to the contrary. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 3 Feb. 2023
Adjective
Research, adjust your thinking and refuse to be funneled in a contrary direction by someone using manipulation. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, 2 May 2024 Tellingly, his twin brother, George, took a contrary stand, one that persists to this day, but even that—his dislike—spoke to the potential intensity of the spice. Bill Buford, The New Yorker, 26 Apr. 2024
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, 21 June 2017 See all Example Sentences for contrary 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contrary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English contrarie "the opposite, antithesis," borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Medieval Latin contrārium, noun derivative from neuter of Latin contrārius "opposite, opposing" — more at contrary entry 2

Adjective

Middle English contrarie "(of a pair) opposed, opposite, discordant, unfavorable, antagonistic," borrowed from Anglo-French, "opposite, wrong, immoral, antagonistic," borrowed from Latin contrārius "opposite in position or kind, antithetical, opposing, adverse, hostile," from contrā, adverb & preposition, "opposite, facing, against" + -ārius -ary entry 2 — more at contra-

Adverb

Middle English contrarie "on the contrary" (as translation of Latin ē contrāriō), (with to or ageyn) "in opposition to," derivative of contrarie, adjective, "opposed, contrary entry 2

First Known Use

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adverb

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near contrary

Cite this Entry

“Contrary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contrary. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

contrary

1 of 2 noun
con·​trary ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
plural contraries
: something opposite or contrary

contrary

2 of 2 adjective
con·​trary ˈkän-ˌtrer-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
sense 4 is often
kən-ˈtre(ə)r-ē How to pronounce contrary (audio)
1
: exactly opposite : entirely different
contrary opinions
2
: being against or opposed : in violation
actions contrary to the law
3
: not favorable or helpful
a contrary wind
4
: unwilling to obey or behave well
a contrary child
contrarily
-ˌtrer-ə-lē
-ˈtrer-
adverb
contrariness
-ˌtrer-ē-nəs
-ˈtrer-
noun

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