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[verb kuh n-trast, kon-trast; noun kon-trast] /verb kənˈtræst, ˈkɒn træst; noun ˈkɒn træst/
verb (used with object)
to compare in order to show unlikeness or differences; note the opposite natures, purposes, etc., of:
Contrast the political rights of Romans and Greeks.
verb (used without object)
to exhibit unlikeness on comparison with something else; form a contrast.
Linguistics. to differ in a way that can serve to distinguish meanings: The sounds (p) and (b) contrast in the words “pin” and “bin.”.
the act of contrasting; the state of being contrasted.
a striking exhibition of unlikeness.
a person or thing that is strikingly unlike in comparison:
The weather down here is a welcome contrast to what we're having back home.
opposition or juxtaposition of different forms, lines, or colors in a work of art to intensify each element's properties and produce a more dynamic expressiveness.
Photography. the relative difference between light and dark areas of a print or negative.
Television. the brightness ratio of the lightest to the darkest part of the television screen image.
Linguistics. a difference between linguistic elements, especially sounds, that can serve to distinguish meanings.
Origin of contrast
1480-90; (verb) < Middle French contraster < Italian contrastare to contest < Latincontrā- contra-1 + stāre to stand; (noun) earlier contraste < French < Italian contrasto conflict, derivative of contrastare
Related forms
contrastable, adjective
contrastably, adverb
contrastingly, adverb
quasi-contrasted, adjective
uncontrastable, adjective
uncontrastably, adverb
uncontrasted, adjective
uncontrasting, adjective
well-contrasted, adjective
Can be confused
compare, contrast (see usage note at compare)
1. differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, oppose. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for contrasting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • These traits, contrasting with his own, Mr. Somers appreciated and admired.

    Adle Dubois Mrs. William T. Savage
  • The paws are also quite black, contrasting with the ivory whiteness of the claws.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
  • Bright yellow breast with contrasting white below, with size, distinctive.

  • The pieces are usually of uniform shape and size and of contrasting colours.

    Quilts Marie D. Webster
  • That is a humorous way of contrasting the jealous patriotism of the Scot with the passionate individualism of the Celt.

    At Large Arthur Christopher Benson
British Dictionary definitions for contrasting


verb (kənˈtrɑːst)
(often foll by with) to distinguish or be distinguished by comparison of unlike or opposite qualities
noun (ˈkɒntrɑːst)
distinction or emphasis of difference by comparison of opposite or dissimilar things, qualities, etc (esp in the phrases by contrast, in contrast to or with)
a person or thing showing notable differences when compared with another
(in painting) the effect of the juxtaposition of different colours, tones, etc
  1. (of a photographic emulsion) the degree of density measured against exposure used
  2. the extent to which adjacent areas of an optical image, esp on a television screen or in a photographic negative or print, differ in brightness
(psychol) the phenomenon that when two different but related stimuli are presented close together in space and/or time they are perceived as being more different than they really are
Derived Forms
contrastable, adjective
contrastably, adverb
contrasting, adjective
contrastive, adjective
contrastively, adverb
Word Origin
C16: (n): via French from Italian, from contrastare (vb), from Latin contra- against + stare to stand
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for contrasting

1715, present participle adjective from contrast (v.). From 1680s as a verbal noun.



1690s, from French contraster (Old French contrester), modified by or from Italian contrastare "stand out against, strive, contend," from Vulgar Latin *contrastare "to withstand," from Latin contra "against" (see contra) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet).

Middle English had contrest "to fight against, to withstand," which became extinct. Modern word re-introduced as an art term. Related: Contrasted; contrasting; contrastive.


1711, from contrast (v.).



1711, from contrast (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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