Definition of counterpoint in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈkaʊntəpɔɪnt/


1 [mass noun] Music The technique of setting, writing, or playing a melody or melodies in conjunction with another, according to fixed rules.
Example sentences
  • Valen's approach was derived from Bach, from whose music he evolved a polyphonic technique of dissonant counterpoint.
  • If she conceives of it as a fugue, she uses techniques of counterpoint and fugal structure to make the piece.
  • The authors of these treatises were not principally music theorists whose prime interest was expounding on the rules of counterpoint, although that may have been included in their duty as teachers.
1.1 [count noun] A melody played in conjunction with another.
Example sentences
  • Melodies and counterpoints are entwined throughout the mix, grounded by the swagger of Fridmann's surprisingly muscular basslines.
  • The contrast was heightened when, from about the 11th century onwards, such soloist passages began to be enhanced, on feast days, by the addition of newly composed polyphonic counterpoints.
  • Anda's inspiration was evident in Gamba's searching accounts, exploring beneath the musical surface and highlighting beautiful inner counterpoints in all three works.
2A thing that forms a pleasing or notable contrast to something else: the sauce made a piquant counterpoint to the ham
More example sentences
  • They've had a big hit with a series called Witch, which is for 10 to 12-year-old girls, so this is going to be the counterpoint to that for boys.
  • The band is the counterpoint to Jet - that is to say, they are a rip-off crew that (kind of) makes it work.
  • I want you to talk a lot about this because it's the counterpoint to what lots of others have said.


[with object]
1 Music Add counterpoint to (a melody): the orchestra counterpoints the vocal part
More example sentences
  • Britten used the 12-note system to provide a classic opera of dramatic tension counterpointed by exquisite melody.
  • The second verse features only the guitar and Hysen until the cello comes in once again playing a more legato melody that counterpoints the guitar nicely.
  • Norburn and Taylor belong to the subtle school: muted but plaintive accompaniment counterpointing a singing voice which is both expressive and intimate; occasionally dramatic but never melodramatic.
2Emphasize by contrast: the cream walls and maple floors are counterpointed by black accents
More example sentences
  • The wild, syncopated patterns of the surrounding painting become giant frames which counterpoint the stillness of the images.
  • But today they highlight Charles' sheer musical eclecticism, and vitally counterpoint his earlier earthier style.
  • Frankie is revealed early to be a smart-ass to his local priest, only for the audience to find out later how it counterpoints his responsibility as Maggie's friend and true family.
2.1Compensate for: the yarn’s fanciful excesses are counterpointed with some sharp and unsentimental dialogue
More example sentences
  • What should have been a risky theatrical conceit is turned into an effective device for commenting on or counter pointing the action.
  • The score samples the most beautiful, evocative measures from Bernard Herrman's Vertigo score, counterpointing its predecessor's smothering romanticism with its own spare original orchestration.
  • This proves a wise move, as the sheer weirdness of the story is counterpointed by Jonze's naturalistic approach.


Late Middle English: from Old French contrepoint, from medieval Latin contrapunctum '(song) pricked or marked over against (the original melody)', from contra- 'against' + punctum, from pungere 'to prick'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: coun¦ter|point

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.