[ koun-ter ]
/ ˈkaʊn tər /
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See synonyms for: counter / countered / countering / counters on Thesaurus.com

a table or display case on which goods can be shown, business transacted, etc.
(in restaurants, luncheonettes, etc.) a long, narrow table with stools or chairs along one side for the patrons, behind which refreshments or meals are prepared and served.
a surface for the preparation of food in a kitchen, especially on a low cabinet.
anything used in keeping account, as a disk of metal or wood, used in some games, as checkers, for marking a player's position or for keeping score.
an imitation coin or token.
a coin; money.
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Idioms about counter

    over the counter,
    1. (of the sale of stock) through a broker's office rather than through the stock exchange.
    2. (of the sale of merchandise) through a retail store rather than through a wholesaler.
    under the counter, in a clandestine manner, especially illegally: books sold under the counter.

Origin of counter

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English countour, from Anglo-French (Old French comptoir ), from Medieval Latin computātorium “place for computing,” equivalent to Latin computā(re) “to think, calculate” + -tōrium noun suffix; see compute, -tory2; cf. count1

Other definitions for counter (2 of 5)

[ koun-ter ]
/ ˈkaʊn tər /

a device for counting revolutions of a wheel, items produced, etc.
a person who counts.
Cards. card counter.
Computers. a storage register or program variable used to tally how often something of interest occurs.
Electronics. scaler (def. 2).
Physics. any of various instruments for detecting ionizing radiation and for registering counts.See also Geiger counter.

Origin of counter

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English countour, from Anglo-French (Old French conteor ), ultimately derived from Latin computātor, equivalent to computā(re) “to think, calculate” + -tor noun suffix; see compute, -tor

Other definitions for counter (3 of 5)

Origin of counter

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English countre, from Anglo-French co(u)ntre, cuntre,Old French contre, from Latin contrā “against”; see counter-

Other definitions for counter (4 of 5)

[ koun-ter ]
/ ˈkaʊn tər /

verb (used with object)
to encounter in opposition or combat.

Origin of counter

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English countren, aphetic variant of acountren, from Middle French acontrer; see a-5, encounter

Other definitions for counter (5 of 5)


a combining form of counter3, used with the meanings “against,” “contrary,” “opposite,” “in opposition or response to” (countermand); “complementary,” “in reciprocation,” “corresponding,” “parallel” (counterfoil; counterbalance); “substitute,” “duplicate” (counterfeit).

Origin of counter-

Middle English countre-;see counter3
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does counter- mean?

Counter– is a combining form used like a prefix with a variety of meanings, primarily meaning “against,” “contrary,” or “opposite.” It is often used in everyday and technical terms.

Counter– comes from Middle English countre-, meaning “against.” A related prefix is contra, as in contraindicate, meaning “against,” from Latin contrā. Find out more at our entries for contra– and contraindicate.

Examples of counter-

An example of a word you may have encountered that features counter– is counteract, “to act in opposition to.”

While counter means “against,” the act portion of the word refers to “anything done,” as in “deed,” from Latin ācta. Counteract literally translates to “against something being done.”

What are some words that use the combining form counter-?

What are some other forms that counter– may be commonly confused with?

Not every word that begins with the exact letters counter-, such as countertop or counterman, is necessarily using the combining form counter– to denote “against.” Learn why countertop means “surface” at our entry for the word.

Break it down!

Given the meaning of the combining form counter-, what does counterbalance literally mean?

How to use counter in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for counter (1 of 4)

/ (ˈkaʊntə) /


Word Origin for counter

C14: from Old French comptouer, ultimately from Latin computāre to compute

British Dictionary definitions for counter (2 of 4)

Word Origin for counter

C15: from Old French contre, from Latin contrā against

British Dictionary definitions for counter (3 of 4)

/ (ˈkaʊntə) /

a person who counts
an apparatus that records the number of occurrences of events
any instrument for detecting or counting ionizing particles or photonsSee Geiger counter, scintillation counter, crystal counter
electronics another name for scaler (def. 2)

Word Origin for counter

C14: from Old French conteor, from Latin computātor; see count 1

British Dictionary definitions for counter (4 of 4)


against; opposite; contrarycounterattack
complementary; correspondingcounterfoil
duplicate or substitutecounterfeit

Word Origin for counter-

via Norman French from Latin contrā against, opposite; see contra-
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with counter


see run counter to; under the counter.

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