The Meaning of Contrary: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of contrary? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word contrary, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word contrary mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other dictionaries like American heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word contrary can be used as a noun. Here, it means some fact or condition that is incompatible or opposite with one another, or some proposition that is so related to another that hough both may be false they cannot both be true. As an adjective, the word contrary means to be at an opposite extreme or in conflict with another thing. The pronunciation of contrary is kənˈtrɛər i. Many things can be described by the adjective contrary, including contrary propositions, a contrary child, contrary direction, contrary logical relation, contrary opinions, contrary propositions, contrary answers, contrary evidence, a contrary conclusion, contrary ideas, a contrary choice, the contrary of a statement, contrary terms, or other contrary things. You may have heard this word in the children’s nursery rhyme “Mary Mary Quite Contrary.”

The word contrary also exists in many other languages. You may notice that many of these words sound and look similar to the word contrary. Cognates like this happen when words are of the same origin. Since the word contrary comes from Latin, it makes sense that it will look similar to its equivalent words in the romance languages, which are also languages of Latin origin. This list of translations for the word contrary is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Bulgarian: обратен‎, противоположен‎
  •  Irish: contrártha‎
  •  Finnish: vastakkainen‎, päinvastainen‎
  •  Japanese: 逆‎, 反する‎ (han suru)
  •  Maori: tukipoho‎, tūmū‎ (of wind)
  •  Italian: contrario‎, opposto‎
  •  Romanian: contrar‎ (masc.) (n), opus‎ (masc.) (n)
  •  Kannada: ಮಾರು‎
  •  Spanish: contrario‎

How can the word contrary be used in a sentence?

The word contrary can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to learn their definition. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today, or making flashcards or quizzes to help you memorize the definition of the word contrary. Below are many examples of contrary. 

His logic was the exact opposite of mine. On the contrary, we severely disagreed on the pair of propositions presented to us.

The old psychologist believed that the male gender had a contrary usual belief to the female on everything. The modern female psychologist felt his point of view was contrary to modern psychology and logic.  

The defendant of the senseless policy had a contrary opinion to the American people, who would be affected as they were in former times if it were to go into effect.

Megan thought she was reading the schedule for the departures of the carriages; on the contrary, she was actually on the correct page for arrivals. Megan missed her carriage.

Contrary to popular belief, the high school jock was very smart. She was accepted to every Ivy League university. 

What are synonyms and antonyms of contrary?

There are many different words that have the same meaning as the word contrary. These are known as synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you want to avoid repeating yourself or if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word contrary is provided by Thesaurus. 

  •  froward
  •  wayward
  •  refractory
  •  diametric
  •  paradoxical
  •  recalcitrant
  •  dissentient
  •  insubordinate
  •  clashing
  •  inimical
  •  contrariant
  •  antipodal
  •  intractable
  •  contumacious
  •  nonconformist
  •  antipathetic
  •  stubborn
  •  reverse
  •  ornery
  •  recusant
  •  unruly
  •  opposite
  •  nonconforming
  •  antagonistic
  •  perverse
  •  discordant
  •  antipodean
  •  restive
  •  balky
  •  antithetical
  •  anti
  •  counter
  •  rebellious
  •  opposed
  •  conflicting
  •  negative
  •  converse
  •  headstrong
  •  wrongheaded
  •  dissident
  •  contradictory
  •  adverse
  •  inconsistent
  •  hostile
  •  obstinate

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word contrary. These opposite words are known as antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary or knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word contrary is also provided by Thesaurus. 

  •  harmonizing
  •  similar
  •  melodious
  •  like
  •  tuneful
  •  friendly
  •  of one mind
  •  symphonic
  •  corresponding
  •  coordinated
  •  sympathetic
  •  on same wavelength
  •  symmetrical
  •  agreeable
  •  euphonious
  •  in chorus
  •  in harmony
  •  congenial
  •  accordant
  •  in step
  •  symphonious
  •  rhythmical
  •  adapted
  •  in unison
  •  in tune
  •  mellifluous
  •  compatible
  •  dulcet
  •  mix
  •  suitable
  •  cordial
  •  harmonious
  •  in accord
  •  simpatico
  •  matching
  •  sonorous
  •  harmonic
  •  sweet-sounding
  •  consonant
  •  peaceful
  •  amicable
  •  balanced
  •  in concert
  •  musical
  •  concordant
  •  melodic
  •  congruous
  •  silvery

What is the origin of the word contrary?

According to Etymonline, the word contrary has been used since the mid-14th century as the Middle English contrarie. This comes from the Anglo-French contrarie, a successor of the Old French contraire, which comes directly from the Latin contrarius or Latin contrārius, meaning opposite or opposed. This comes from the Latin contra meaning against. This word has been used as a noun since 13c. One can add the suffixes ly, ness, ies and ian to the end of the word contrary to make the related words contrarily (adv.), contraries, contrariness (n.) and contrarian (n.), as well as contravention. This word has Indo-European roots.

Overall, the word contrary (ˈkɒntrərɪ) means to be in a relation of direct opposition to someone or something. This could refer to opposite objects, an opposite direction, an opposite effect, or an opposite opinion, amongst others.This word can be used as an adjective or noun. If someone is contrary to someone else, they might have an opposite point or opposite opinion. They might even be self-contradictory in an unexpected way. Try using the word contrary in a sentence today to incorporate it into your vocabulary!


  1. Contrary | Meaning, Origin, Translation | Word Sense
  2. CONTRARY Synonyms: 60 Synonyms & Antonyms for CONTRARY | Thesaurus  
  3. contrary | Origin and meaning of contrary | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. HARMONIOUS Synonyms: 54 Synonyms & Antonyms for HARMONIOUS | Thesaurus 
  5. Contrary | Definition of Contrary | Merriam-Webster