[kon-trer-ee; for 5 also kuhn-trair-ee]
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  1. opposite in nature or character; diametrically or mutually opposed: contrary to fact; contrary propositions.
  2. opposite in direction or position: departures in contrary directions.
  3. being the opposite one of two: I will make the contrary choice.
  4. unfavorable or adverse.
  5. perverse; stubbornly opposed or willful.
noun, plural con·trar·ies.
  1. something that is contrary or opposite: to prove the contrary of a statement.
  2. either of two contrary things.
  3. Logic. a proposition so related to another proposition that both may not be true though both may be false, as with the propositions “All judges are male” and “No judges are male.”
  1. in opposition; oppositely; counter: to act contrary to one's own principles.
  1. by contraries, contrary to expectation.
  2. on the contrary,
    1. in opposition to what has been stated.
    2. from another point of view: On the contrary, there may be some who would agree with you.
  3. to the contrary,
    1. to the opposite effect: I believe he is innocent, whatever they may say to the contrary.
    2. to a different effect.

Origin of contrary

1200–50; Middle English contrarie < Anglo-French < Latin contrārius. See contra1, -ary
Related formscon·trar·i·ly [kon-trer-uh-lee, kuhn-trair-] /ˈkɒn trɛr ə li, kənˈtrɛər-/, adverbcon·trar·i·ness, nounqua·si-con·trar·i·ly, adverbqua·si-con·trar·y, adjective

Synonyms for contrary

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Synonym study

1. See opposite. 4. Contrary, adverse both describe something that opposes. Contrary conveys an idea of something impersonal and objective whose opposition happens to be unfavorable: contrary winds. Adverse suggests something more personally unfriendly or even hostile; it emphasizes the idea of the resulting misfortune to that which is opposed: The judge rendered a decision adverse to the defendant.

Antonyms for contrary Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for contraries

Contemporary Examples of contraries

Historical Examples of contraries

  • And yet, I said, if friendship goes by contraries, the contraries must be friends.



  • He was an impulsive young man, and sometimes he made up his mind by contraries.


    Holworthy Hall

  • Poor Mrs. Elton laid no claim to the contraries of these epithets.

    David Elginbrod

    George MacDonald

  • Moreover, if these were contraries, they would themselves be contrary to themselves.

  • Action and affection both admit of contraries and also of variation of degree.

British Dictionary definitions for contraries


  1. opposed in nature, position, etccontrary ideas
  2. (kənˈtrɛərɪ) perverse; obstinate
  3. (esp of wind) adverse; unfavourable
  4. (of plant parts) situated at right angles to each other
  5. logic (of a pair of propositions) related so that they cannot both be true at once, although they may both be false togetherCompare subcontrary (def. 2), contradictory (def. 3)
noun plural -ries
  1. the exact opposite (esp in the phrase to the contrary)
  2. on the contrary quite the reverse; not at all
  3. either of two exactly opposite objects, facts, or qualities
  4. logic a statement that cannot be true when a given statement is true
adverb (usually foll by to)
  1. in an opposite or unexpected waycontrary to usual belief
  2. in conflict (with) or contravention (of)contrary to nature
Derived Formscontrariness, noun

Word Origin for contrary

C14: from Latin contrārius opposite, from contrā against
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 contraries



mid-14c., from Anglo-French contrarie, from Latin contrarius "opposite, opposed," from contra "against" (see contra).

If we take the statement All men are mortal, its contrary is Not all men are mortal, its converse is All mortal beings are men, & its opposite is No men are mortal. The contrary, however, does not exclude the opposite, but includes it as its most extreme form. Thus This is white has only one opposite, This is black, but many contraries, as This is not white, This is coloured, This is dirty, This is black; & whether the last form is called the contrary, or more emphatically the opposite, is usually indifferent. But to apply the opposite to a mere contrary (e.g. to I did not hit him in relation to I hit him, which has no opposite), or to the converse (e.g. to He hit me in relation to I hit him, to which it is neither contrary nor opposite), is a looseness that may easily result in misunderstanding; the temptation to go wrong is intelligible when it is remembered that with certain types of sentence (A exceeds B) the converse & the opposite are identical (B exceeds A). [Fowler]

As a noun from late 13c. Related: Contrarily; contrariwise.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with contraries


see on the contrary; to the contrary.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.