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See more synonyms for contour on Thesaurus.com
  1. the outline of a figure or body; the edge or line that defines or bounds a shape or object.
  2. contour line.
  3. Phonetics. a distinctive pattern of changes in pitch, stress, or tone extending across all or part of an utterance, especially across a sentence, and contributing to meaning.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to mark with contour lines.
  2. to make or form the contour or outline of.
  3. to build (a road, railroad track, etc.) in conformity with the contour of the land.
  4. to mold or shape so as to fit a certain configuration: cars with seats that are contoured for comfort.
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  1. molded or shaped to fit a particular contour or form: contour seats.
  2. Agriculture. of or used in a system of plowing, cultivating, sowing, etc., along the contour lines of the land in order to trap water runoff and prevent erosion.
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Origin of contour

1655–65; < French, equivalent to con- con- + tour a turn (see tour), modeled on Italian contorno, derivative of contornare to outline; see turn
Related formsre·con·tour, verb (used with object)un·con·toured, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for contoured

Historical Examples

  • Our tie strengthened and sustained us in our zest for a world so coloured and contoured.

    Plum Pudding

    Christopher Morley

  • Stillwell commenced a contoured plane-table survey of the neighbourhood of Winter Quarters.

  • How teeth may best be contoured involves nice questions in geometry.

  • To ensure the utmost strength in the machines themselves they are contoured in ample curves.

  • The grinding tools he employs he has contoured in such wise as to produce desired curves free from error.

British Dictionary definitions for contoured


  1. the outline of a mass of land, figure, or body; a defining line
    1. See contour line
    2. (as modifier)a contour map
  2. (often plural) the shape or surface, esp of a curving formthe contours of her body were full and round
  3. (modifier) shaped to fit the form of somethinga contour chair
  4. a rising and falling variation pattern, as in music and intonation
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verb (tr)
  1. to shape so as to form the contour of something
  2. to mark contour lines on
  3. to construct (a road, railway, etc) to follow the outline of the land
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Word Origin

C17: from French, from Italian contorno, from contornare to sketch, from tornare to turn
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

Word Origin and History for contoured



1660s, a term in painting and sculpture, from French contour "circumference, outline," from Italian and Medieval Latin contornare "to go around," from Latin com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + tornare "to turn (on a lathe);" see turn (v.).

First recorded application to topography is from 1769. Earlier the word was used to mean "bedspread, quilt" (early 15c.) in reference to its falling over the sides of the mattress. Related: Contoured. Contour line in geography is from 1844.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper