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 The feminine ruffle details and full-coverage fits come entirely from Diamond's needs as a mother of three, as a counterpoint to the string bikinis and '90s-rise one-pieces dominating the market. Halie Lesavage, Harper's BAZAAR, 11 May 2022 The name was intended as a counterpoint to the Wagner Group, a notorious Russian mercenary organization. Ken Dilanian, NBC News, 3 May 2022 This longing for normalcy plays a faint counterpoint to a steady background hum of no future, no future, no future. Longreads, 19 Apr. 2022 Putin, seeking to redraw the post-Cold War map of Europe, has now engineered the counterpoint to those joyous scenes three decades later in his relentless bombardments designed to revive Russia as a super power. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 7 Mar. 2022 Descriptions of Belavista form a grim counterpoint to the freedoms of the pool. Los Angeles Times, 2 Mar. 2022 Simmons finds a counterpoint to the hypemen in West’s mother, Donda. Sheldon Pearce, The New Yorker, 17 Feb. 2022 Her sharp, patrician features and icy demeanor provided a visual and stylistic counterpoint to the working-class voluptuousness of the leading Italian actresses of the period, among them Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani. New York Times, 2 Feb. 2022 The simplicity of the Anette Library Light, by Ralph Lauren for Visual Comfort, provided a counterpoint to the energetic wallpaper. Elizabeth Quinn Brown, WSJ, 15 Dec. 2021 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

Learn More About counterpoint

Time Traveler for counterpoint

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near counterpoint



counterpoint rhythm

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for counterpoint

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Counterpoint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!