• synonyms


[verb kuhn-trast, kon-trast; noun kon-trast]
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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.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to exhibit unlikeness on comparison with something else; form a contrast.
  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.”
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  1. the act of contrasting; the state of being contrasted.
  2. a striking exhibition of unlikeness.
  3. a person or thing that is strikingly unlike in comparison: The weather down here is a welcome contrast to what we're having back home.
  4. opposition or juxtaposition of different forms, lines, or colors in a work of art to intensify each element's properties and produce a more dynamic expressiveness.
  5. Photography. the relative difference between light and dark areas of a print or negative.
  6. Television. the brightness ratio of the lightest to the darkest part of the television screen image.
  7. Linguistics. a difference between linguistic elements, especially sounds, that can serve to distinguish meanings.
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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

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

Examples from the Web for contrasts

Contemporary Examples of contrasts

Historical Examples of contrasts

  • The contrasts were so cruel that they scorched the eyes of the soul.

  • It contrasts "foe and friend," just as the sonnet contrasts "love and hate."

  • These contrasts might, indeed, be tragic enough, but they are actually comic.

  • His love of reputation is characteristically Greek, and contrasts with the humility of Socrates.

  • Recognition of contrasts (the presentation of the extremes of a series of objects).

British Dictionary definitions for contrasts


verb (kənˈtrɑːst)
  1. (often foll by with) to distinguish or be distinguished by comparison of unlike or opposite qualities
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noun (ˈkɒntrɑːst)
  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
  3. (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
  4. 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
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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 contrasts



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.

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1711, from contrast (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper