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[koun-ter-point] /ˈkaʊn tərˌpɔɪnt/
Music. the art of combining melodies.
Music. the texture resulting from the combining of individual melodic lines.
a melody composed to be combined with another melody.
Also called counterpoint rhythm. Prosody. syncopation (def 2).
any element that is juxtaposed and contrasted with another.
verb (used with object)
to emphasize or clarify by contrast or juxtaposition.
Origin of counterpoint
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Middle French contrepoint, translation of Medieval Latin (cantus) contrāpūnctus literally, (song) pointed or pricked against, referring to notes of an accompaniment written over or under the notes of a plainsong. See counter-, point Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for counterpoint
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Gluck called on Handel, who told someone that he knew no more of counterpoint than his cook.

    Handel Edward J. Dent
  • To my Misfortune, I asked one of this sort, from whom he had learned the counterpoint?

    Observations on the Florid Song Pier Francesco Tosi
  • Gluck, indeed, has even been considered weak in counterpoint and fugue.

    The Merry-Go-Round Carl Van Vechten
  • Meyerbeer, it is said, was also weak in counterpoint and fugue.

    The Merry-Go-Round Carl Van Vechten
  • William Smith Rockstro, who used to teach Butler counterpoint.

    The Samuel Butler Collection Henry Festing Jones
  • counterpoint, fugue, and composition he studied under Dudley Buck.

British Dictionary definitions for counterpoint


the technique involving the simultaneous sounding of two or more parts or melodies
a melody or part combined with another melody or part See also descant (sense 1)
the musical texture resulting from the simultaneous sounding of two or more melodies or parts
strict counterpoint, the application of the rules of counterpoint as an academic exercise
a contrasting or interacting element, theme, or item; foil
(prosody) the use of a stress or stresses at variance with the regular metrical stress
(transitive) to set in contrast
adjective contrapuntal
Word Origin
C15: from Old French contrepoint, from contre-counter- + point dot, note in musical notation, that is, an accompaniment set against the notes of a melody
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 counterpoint

early 15c., of stitching, from Old French cuilte contrepointe "quilt stitched through and through," altered from coute pointe, from Medieval Latin culcita puncta "quilted mattress," from Latin culcita "cushion" + puncta, fem. past participle of pungere "to prick, stab" (see pungent).

Of music, mid-15c., from Old French contrepoint, from Medieval Latin cantus contrapunctus, from contrapunctum, from Latin contra + puncta, with reference to the indication of musical notes by "pricking" with a pointed pen over or under the original melody on a manuscript.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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counterpoint in Culture

counterpoint definition

The use of two or more melodies at the same time in a piece of music; it was an important part of baroque music. Certain composers, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, have been especially skillful at counterpoint.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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