[kon-trer-ee; for 5 also kuhn-trair-ee]


noun, plural con·trar·ies.


in opposition; oppositely; counter: to act contrary to one's own principles.


    by contraries, contrary to expectation.
    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.
    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

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for contrary

Contemporary Examples of contrary

Historical Examples of contrary

  • On the contrary, I am speeding them forward with added watchfulness.

  • On the contrary, His Imperial Majesty appeals to their sentiments of justice, and to the consciousness of their own dignity.

  • On the contrary, it is almost directly favourable, but the question is whether they would venture out at all in such a storm.

  • This is true; vital statistics and fiction to the contrary, notwithstanding.

    The Sheriff of Badger

    George B. Pattullo

  • Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see.

    Pascal's Penses

    Blaise Pascal

British Dictionary definitions for contrary



opposed in nature, position, etccontrary ideas
(kənˈtrɛərɪ) perverse; obstinate
(esp of wind) adverse; unfavourable
(of plant parts) situated at right angles to each other
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

the exact opposite (esp in the phrase to the contrary)
on the contrary quite the reverse; not at all
either of two exactly opposite objects, facts, or qualities
logic a statement that cannot be true when a given statement is true

adverb (usually foll by to)

in an opposite or unexpected waycontrary to usual belief
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 contrary

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 contrary


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.