[ verb kuhn-trast, kon-trast; noun kon-trast ]
See synonyms for: contrastcontrastedcontrastingcontrasts on

verb (used with object)
  1. 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)
  1. to show striking difference when compared with or viewed alongside something else: Youth leadership on the issue contrasts with government inaction.The blue of the wood trim contrasts nicely with the pale yellow walls.

  2. Linguistics. to differ in a way that can serve to distinguish meanings: The sounds (p) and (b) contrast in the words “pin” and “bin.”

  1. a striking difference: The study revealed interesting contrasts between people who regularly read books and those who don't.

  2. a person or thing that is strikingly different in comparison: The weather down here is a welcome contrast to what we're having back home.

  1. opposition or juxtaposition of different formal elements in a work of art, music, or literature to intensify each element's properties and make the work more dynamically expressive: The artist makes effective use of color contrast in the illustrations.There’s a stark contrast of tempo in the sonata’s two movements.

  2. the act of comparing people or things so as to draw attention to striking differences between them: Each essay topic involves the contrast of two of the novels studied in the course.

  3. Photography. the relative difference between light and dark areas of a print, digital photograph, or negative.

  4. the brightness ratio of the lightest to the darkest part of the screen image on a television, computer, or other electronic device.

  5. Linguistics. a difference between linguistic elements, especially sounds, that can serve to distinguish meanings.

Idioms about contrast

  1. by contrast. See entry at by contrast.

  2. compare and contrast. See entry at compare and contrast.

  1. in contrast, in comparison to something that is the opposite or strikingly different in some respect: In contrast to personal computers, which are rare in that country, cell phones are widely available and even most children have their own.

  2. stand in contrast to / with, to show a striking difference when compared to or with: The actor’s on-screen gun violence stands in contrast to her real-life persona as an advocate for gun control.

Origin of contrast

First recorded in 1480–90; (for the verb) from Middle French contraster, from Italian contrastare “to contest,” from Latin contrā- contra-1 + stāre “to stand” (cf. status ); (for the noun) earlier contraste, from French, from Italian contrasto “conflict,” derivative of contrastare

Other words for contrast

Other words from contrast

  • con·trast·a·ble, adjective
  • con·trast·a·bly, adverb
  • con·trast·ing·ly, adverb
  • qua·si-con·trast·ed, adjective
  • un·con·trast·a·ble, adjective
  • un·con·trast·a·bly, adverb
  • un·con·trast·ed, adjective
  • un·con·trast·ing, adjective
  • well-con·trast·ed, adjective

Words that may be confused with contrast

Words Nearby contrast Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use contrast in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for contrast


  1. (often foll by with) to distinguish or be distinguished by comparison of unlike or opposite qualities

  1. 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)

  2. a person or thing showing notable differences when compared with another

  1. (in painting) the effect of the juxtaposition of different colours, tones, etc

    • (of a photographic emulsion) the degree of density measured against exposure used

    • 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

  2. 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

Origin of contrast

C16: (n): via French from Italian, from contrastare (vb), from Latin contra- against + stare to stand

Derived forms of contrast

  • contrastable, adjective
  • contrastably, adverb
  • contrasting, adjective
  • contrastive, adjective
  • contrastively, adverb

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