[verb kuhn-trast, kon-trast; noun kon-trast]

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.”


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 formscon·trast·a·ble, adjectivecon·trast·a·bly, adverbcon·trast·ing·ly, adverbqua·si-con·trast·ed, adjectiveun·con·trast·a·ble, adjectiveun·con·trast·a·bly, adverbun·con·trast·ed, adjectiveun·con·trast·ing, adjectivewell-con·trast·ed, adjective
Can be confusedcompare contrast (see usage note at compare)

Synonyms for contrast Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for contrast

Contemporary Examples of contrast

Historical Examples of contrast

British Dictionary definitions for contrast


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 Formscontrastable, adjectivecontrastably, adverbcontrasting, adjectivecontrastive, adjectivecontrastively, adverb

Word Origin for contrast

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

Word Origin and History for contrast

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.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper