[ kon-trer-ee; for 5 also kuhn-trair-ee ]
/ ˈkɒn trɛr i; for 5 also kənˈtrɛər i /


noun, plural con·trar·ies.


in opposition; oppositely; counter: to act contrary to one's own principles.

Nearby words

  1. contrarily,
  2. contrariness,
  3. contrarious,
  4. contrariously,
  5. contrariwise,
  6. contrary motion,
  7. contras,
  8. contrasexual,
  9. contrast,
  10. contrast bath


Origin of contrary

1200–50; Middle English contrarie < Anglo-French < Latin contrārius. See contra1, -ary

Related formscon·trar·i·ly [kon-trer-uh-lee, kuhn-trair-] /ˈkɒn trɛr ə li, kənˈtrɛər-/, adverbcon·trar·i·ness, nounqua·si-con·trar·i·ly, adverbqua·si-con·trar·y, adjective

Synonym study

1. See opposite. 4. Contrary, adverse both describe something that opposes. Contrary conveys an idea of something impersonal and objective whose opposition happens to be unfavorable: contrary winds. Adverse suggests something more personally unfriendly or even hostile; it emphasizes the idea of the resulting misfortune to that which is opposed: The judge rendered a decision adverse to the defendant. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for on the contrary


/ (ˈkɒntrərɪ) /


noun plural -ries

adverb (usually foll by to)

in an opposite or unexpected waycontrary to usual belief
in conflict (with) or contravention (of)contrary to nature
Derived Formscontrariness, noun

Word Origin for contrary

C14: from Latin contrārius opposite, from contrā against

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 on the contrary


Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with on the contrary

on the contrary

It's the opposite, as in Is his shoulder hurting?—On the contrary, it's all better, or We thought you didn't like opera.—On the contrary, I love it. This phrase, at first put as by or for or in the contrary, dates from the late 1300s; on has been used since the mid-1800s.


see on the contrary; to the contrary.

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