Definition of contrary in English:

Share this entry



Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrerē/
1Opposite in nature, direction, or meaning: he ignored contrary advice and agreed on the deal
More example sentences
  • Arthur is always good for a contrary point of view.
  • Surprisingly, they've published a few letters to the editor saying how good the new paper looks but none putting a contrary point of view!
  • And they want the option to go out and get more information, or to seek a contrary point of view.
opposite, opposing, opposed, contradictory, clashing, conflicting, antithetical, incompatible, irreconcilable
1.1(Of two or more statements, beliefs, etc.) opposed to one another: his mother had given him contrary messages
More example sentences
  • These lower court statements do not, however, strike me as that persuasive, especially given the contrary statements by the Supreme Court.
  • In spite of contrary statements from others in the administration, Cheney is still insisting.
  • But others resist because they hold contrary beliefs about their vocation as educators.
1.2(Of a wind) blowing in the opposite direction to one’s course; unfavorable.
Example sentences
  • Then, a week from the finish, contrary winds forced her to again change landfalls, this time to Guadeloupe.
  • Not many miles away another little ship was slipping through the water, fitfully tacking against the contrary wind, seeking an easterly path.
  • Moreover, the ships transporting his cavalry were beset with contrary winds, and were never to make a landfall in Britain.
1.3 Logic (Of two propositions) so related that one or neither but not both must be true. Compare with contradictory.
Example sentences
  • Propositions are contrary when they cannot both be true.
  • In neither of these cases, however, was the contrary proposition argued.
2kənˈtrerē Perversely inclined to disagree or to do the opposite of what is expected or desired: she is sulky and contrary where her work is concerned
More example sentences
  • Sometimes I think he arbitrarily disagrees with me just to be contrary.
  • No surprise then that writers so often prove such a stubborn, contrary lot.
  • For instance, living and making his career in Washington seems like an especially stubborn and contrary thing to do.
perverse, awkward, difficult, uncooperative, unhelpful, obstructive, disobliging, recalcitrant, willful, self-willed, stubborn, obstinate, defiant, mulish, pigheaded, intractable
formal refractory
archaic froward


Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrerē/
(plural contraries)
1 (the contrary) The opposite: the magazine has proved that the contrary is true
More example sentences
  • We have thirty years of evidence to prove the contrary.
  • Documented proof is available which will have to be produced to prove the contrary.
  • But if they fail to prove this it seems superfluous, and indeed illogical, to require the accused to prove the contrary on a balance of probabilities.
opposite, reverse, converse, antithesis
2 Logic A contrary proposition.
Example sentences
  • For what are contraries cannot coincide in one and the same subject.
  • So, certainly ‘traditional definitions’ of masculine and feminine need to be re-evaluated because they are based on a faulty understanding of an illusory division amongst contraries.
  • This is a clear instance of oppositional reasoning by contraries.



contrary to

Conflicting with; counter to: contrary to his expectations, he found the atmosphere exciting the restrictions were not contrary to the public interest
More example sentences
  • It is counterintuitive and contrary to everything that we have been told.
  • Yet such efforts will necessarily run contrary to British sympathies and our attitudes to the state.
  • And contrary to popular belief, the employees work all year round to make the poppies.
in conflict with, against, at variance with, at odds with, in opposition to, counter to, incompatible with

on (or quite) the contrary

Used to intensify a denial of what has just been implied or stated: there was no malice in her; on the contrary, she was very kind
More example sentences
  • The costumes of the gentlemen guests, on the contrary, were rather dull and too modern-looking.
  • And quite the contrary, we have increased oil production.
  • And that doesn't make them stupid or insular; quite the contrary, it's a pretty stupid and insular movie in the first place.

to the contrary

With the opposite meaning or implication: he continued to drink despite medical advice to the contrary
More example sentences
  • Those instincts were obviously sound, despite evidence to the contrary.
  • They've been denying it existed despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
  • Delusions are false beliefs which are held despite evidence to the contrary.



Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrerəlē/
Example sentences
  • I wanted also, contrarily, to join the services when I was old enough, before I was called up at eighteen, so as to do my bit in the war effort.
  • Quite contrarily, these films were among the more popular.
  • Again, contrarily, it's one of his less memorable films.


Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrerēnəs/ /kənˈtrerēnəs/
Example sentences
  • The more fervently humans believe, the more fervently they feel that contrariness is a threat.
  • In the end, the issue ultimately comes down to this: when does revisionism cross over into shock value contrariness?
  • I wanted to experience the culinary contrariness of our two countries - I wanted to taste the difference!


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French contrarie, from Latin contrarius, from contra 'against'.

Words that rhyme with contrary

airy, Azeri, canary, carabinieri, Carey, Cary, chary, clary, dairy, Dari, faerie, glairy, glary, Guarneri, hairy, lairy, miserere, nary, Nyerere, prairie, Salieri, scary, Tipperary, vary, wary

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: con·trar·y

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.