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From Middle English contrarie, compare French contraire, from Old French contraire, from Latin contrarius ‎(opposite, opposed, contrary), from contra ‎(against).



contrary ‎(comparative more contrary, superlative most contrary)

  1. Opposite; in an opposite direction; in opposition; adverse.
    contrary winds
    • Bible, Leviticus xxvi. 21
      And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me []
    • Shakespeare
      We have lost our labour; they are gone a contrary way.
  2. Opposed; contradictory; inconsistent.
    • Whewell
      The doctrine of the earth's motion appeared to be contrary to the sacred Scripture.
  3. Given to opposition; perverse; wayward.
    a contrary disposition; a contrary child

Derived terms[edit]



contrary ‎(comparative more contrary, superlative most contrary)

  1. Contrarily


contrary ‎(plural contraries)

  1. The opposite.
    • Shakespeare
      No contraries hold more antipathy / Than I and such a knave.
  2. One of a pair of propositions that cannot both be simultaneously true.
    • I. Watts
      If two universals differ in quality, they are contraries; as, every vine is a tree; no vine is a tree. These can never be both true together; but they may be both false.


Derived terms[edit]



contrary ‎(third-person singular simple present contraries, present participle contrarying, simple past and past participle contraried)

  1. (obsolete) To oppose; to frustrate.
    • Bishop Latimer
      I was advised not to contrary the king.
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, I.47:
      The Athenians having left the enemie in their owne land, for to pass into Sicilie, had very ill successe, and were much contraried by fortune [].
  2. (obsolete) To impugn.
  3. (obsolete) To contradict (someone or something).
    • 1485, Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, Book X, chapter lxxvij:
      thus wilfully sir Palomydes dyd bataille with yow / & as for hym sir I was not gretely aferd but I dred fore laūcelot that knew yow not / Madame said Palomydes ye maye saye what so ye wyll / I maye not contrary yow but by my knyghthode I knewe not sir Tristram
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.12:
      I finde them everie one in his turne to have reason, although they contrary one another.
  4. (obsolete) To do the opposite of (someone or something).
  5. (obsolete) To act inconsistently or perversely; to act in opposition to.
  6. (obsolete) To argue; to debate; to uphold an opposite opinion.
  7. (obsolete) To be self-contradictory; to become reversed.


Related terms[edit]