Music. the art of combining melodies.
Music. the texture resulting from the combining of individual melodic lines.
a melody composed to be combined with another melody.
Also called counterpoint rhythm. Prosody. syncopation(def 2).
any element that is juxtaposed and contrasted with another.

verb (used with object)

to emphasize or clarify by contrast or juxtaposition.

Origin of counterpoint

1400–50; late Middle English < Middle French contrepoint, translation of Medieval Latin (cantus) contrāpūnctus literally, (song) pointed or pricked against, referring to notes of an accompaniment written over or under the notes of a plainsong. See counter-, point Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for counterpoint

Contemporary Examples of counterpoint

Historical Examples of counterpoint

  • Gluck called on Handel, who told someone that he knew no more of counterpoint than his cook.


    Edward J. Dent

  • To my Misfortune, I asked one of this sort, from whom he had learned the Counterpoint?

  • Meyerbeer, it is said, was also weak in counterpoint and fugue.

    The Merry-Go-Round

    Carl Van Vechten

  • Gluck, indeed, has even been considered weak in counterpoint and fugue.

    The Merry-Go-Round

    Carl Van Vechten

  • William Smith Rockstro, who used to teach Butler counterpoint.

    The Samuel Butler Collection

    Henry Festing Jones

British Dictionary definitions for counterpoint



the technique involving the simultaneous sounding of two or more parts or melodies
a melody or part combined with another melody or partSee also descant (def. 1)
the musical texture resulting from the simultaneous sounding of two or more melodies or parts
strict counterpoint the application of the rules of counterpoint as an academic exercise
a contrasting or interacting element, theme, or item; foil
prosody the use of a stress or stresses at variance with the regular metrical stress


(tr) to set in contrast
Related formsRelated adjective: contrapuntal

Word Origin for counterpoint

C15: from Old French contrepoint, from contre- counter- + point dot, note in musical notation, that is, an accompaniment set against the notes of a melody
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 counterpoint

early 15c., of stitching, from Old French cuilte contrepointe "quilt stitched through and through," altered from coute pointe, from Medieval Latin culcita puncta "quilted mattress," from Latin culcita "cushion" + puncta, fem. past participle of pungere "to prick, stab" (see pungent).

Of music, mid-15c., from Old French contrepoint, from Medieval Latin cantus contrapunctus, from contrapunctum, from Latin contra + puncta, with reference to the indication of musical notes by "pricking" with a pointed pen over or under the original melody on a manuscript.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for counterpoint


The use of two or more melodies at the same time in a piece of music; it was an important part of baroque music. Certain composers, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, have been especially skillful at counterpoint.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.