Definition of contrary in English:



  • 1Opposite in nature, direction, or meaning.

    ‘he ignored contrary advice and agreed on the deal’
    • ‘Still, how one marshals the evidence, how one organizes and presents it, and how one treats contrary evidence are always major components of a good answer.’
    • ‘The first is that the case for natural, harmonious diversity might be overcome, if enough people decide to act on contrary assumptions.’
    • ‘Telling people how to behave is one thing, but telling them what to believe means invading every intellectual nook and cranny in order to root out contrary ideas.’
    • ‘Voting with the party where a contrary belief isn't deeply held is another thing entirely!’
    • ‘Behind racism is a sort of double-think that renders belief in the determining importance of race immune to contrary evidence.’
    • ‘As to that, the contrary assumption is really more plausible.’
    • ‘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!’
    • ‘As is well known, established theories are seldom challenged by contrary evidence until a competing theory has overwhelming support.’
    • ‘At the same time, however, China's economic managers were sending a contrary message.’
    • ‘I saw that the Clerk was giving you contrary advice, but I actually think the appropriate course of action, once a member calls for a vote, is for a vote to be held.’
    • ‘Brown and the library board have cited no cases to us which have reached a contrary conclusion under similar facts, and we have found none.’
    • ‘I find it hard to understand the contrary position, but I would not argue against it.’
    • ‘But having said all of that, the very strong judicial disposition, worked out over a long time and in cases that far precede me, take a contrary view.’
    • ‘I'm not going to assert my contrary opinion in the face of counterveiling evidence that is sound.’
    • ‘The question is if one made a contrary assumption, what assumption does one make?’
    • ‘According to this contrary view, the key to uniqueness, whether in robots or human beings, is a matter of nurture or history rather than of nature.’
    • ‘Arthur is always good for 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.’
    • ‘I tried many times to phrase and re-phrase my contrary reply before finally throwing my pen down in disgust.’
    • ‘In fact, several influential commentators offer a contrary assessment that links globalization to new forms of cultural expression.’
    opposite, opposing, opposed, contradictory, clashing, conflicting, antithetical, incompatible, irreconcilable
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    1. 1.1 (of two or more statements, beliefs, etc.) opposed to one another.
      ‘his mother had given him contrary messages’
      • ‘Michael Fleming then pointed out that ‘there are contrary views out there’.’
      • ‘There are two contrary opinions about the information.’
      • ‘Pluralism says that it is fine for us to have different or even contrary views about religion and this does not have to be a problem.’
      • ‘They walked on, the brief exchange causing their moods to drift in contrary directions.’
      • ‘In spite of contrary statements from others in the administration, Cheney is still insisting.’
      • ‘Critics, however, make two contrary arguments.’
      • ‘The economies of art move in contrary directions: the closer you are to the original creative act the smaller the returns tend to be.’
      • ‘But others resist because they hold contrary beliefs about their vocation as educators.’
      • ‘Of course, there are contrary opinions on that.’
      • ‘Depending on which procedural principle one adopts, contrary answers are forthcoming.’
      • ‘He was concerned that a member of the medical profession completed two forms which gave contrary certifications in this particular case.’
      • ‘Graham forces the viewer to experience, at one and the same time, two intensely contrary feelings - deadpan irony and keen longing.’
      • ‘Hahn's musical personality unites two contrary impulses: youthful ardor and a patrician elegance.’
      • ‘Once the manufacturers have a handset to offer, the networks often make contrary commercial decisions about which phones they actually approve for national release.’
      • ‘These two approaches lead to contrary conclusions.’
      • ‘These lower court statements do not, however, strike me as that persuasive, especially given the contrary statements by the Supreme Court.’
      • ‘As a contrast, the next chapter is devoted to the conflicting and contrary views of the Jews during the same time period.’
      • ‘Throughout history, there have always been two contrary elements in many of the major religions of the world.’
      • ‘When two contrary elements are juxtaposed, the sudden surprise catches us off guard.’
      • ‘He further highlighted that we can test general statements by searching for contrary instances.’
    2. 1.2 (of a wind) blowing in the opposite direction to one's course; unfavourable.
      • ‘Moreover, the ships transporting his cavalry were beset with contrary winds, and were never to make a landfall in Britain.’
      • ‘Then, a week from the finish, contrary winds forced her to again change landfalls, this time to Guadeloupe.’
      • ‘But it can also close ranks and work together when faced with contrary winds.’
      • ‘Caravels, used by Colón to reach America, were valued by voyagers for their speed and ease of steering in contrary winds.’
      • ‘When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.’
      • ‘Not many miles away another little ship was slipping through the water, fitfully tacking against the contrary wind, seeking an easterly path.’
      • ‘As one of the leading open meetings in the region, their youngsters missed out on a high quality competition in gloriously warm weather, despite the contrary wind in the home straight.’
      • ‘A second dive and a contrary wind gave John Liddiard the chance to sample one of the Red Sea's lesser-known wrecks.’
    3. 1.3Logic (of two propositions) so related that one or neither but not both must be true.
      Compare with contradictory
      • ‘Propositions are contrary when they cannot both be true.’
      • ‘In neither of these cases, however, was the contrary proposition argued.’
  • 2Perversely inclined to disagree or to do the opposite of what is expected or desired.

    ‘she is sulky and contrary where her work is concerned’
    • ‘What is more, teenagers being teenagers, the response is rather contrary.’
    • ‘For instance, living and making his career in Washington seems like an especially stubborn and contrary thing to do.’
    • ‘Its strength is not disavowed by its disparate and often contrary nature.’
    • ‘Sometimes I think he arbitrarily disagrees with me just to be contrary.’
    • ‘I'm not just being contrary in answering negatively, but it so happens that this is the most misunderstood government in years.’
    • ‘I think everybody has a very contrary element in their nature, a counter to the everyday.’
    • ‘No surprise then that writers so often prove such a stubborn, contrary lot.’
    • ‘Not that I'm anti-capitalist, you understand, so much as just generally contrary.’
    • ‘Is it her willful, contrary nature that comes out?’
    • ‘Perhaps it is my contrary Scottish highlander nature, but I see the scoring change as a very positive step for the professional game, if a little overdue.’
    • ‘But Jack had forgotten the contrary nature of his squad.’
    • ‘And all of them could be bloody-minded and contrary, helping you one minute but ignoring you the next.’
    • ‘I'm sure that my contrary nature contributed to my insistence upon always choosing the story option, but mostly I just enjoyed writing fiction.’
    • ‘And so the picture began to build up of an obstinate, contrary old man, with a fixed idea which no one could dislodge.’
    perverse, awkward, difficult, uncooperative, unhelpful, obstructive, disobliging, unaccommodating, unreasonable, troublesome, tiresome, annoying, vexatious, disobedient, recalcitrant, refractory, wilful, headstrong, self-willed, capricious, wayward, cross-grained
    View synonyms

nounPlural contraries

  • 1the contraryThe opposite.

    ‘an Act applies only to the United Kingdom unless the contrary is expressed’
    • ‘But all existing evidence indicates the contrary.’
    • ‘Of course, the reality is precisely the contrary of this.’
    • ‘Let us remember first and foremost that a very close election result that even necessitated a recount of the votes is the sign of democracy rather than the contrary.’
    • ‘Now it appears that the infallible litmus test of whether one is on the right track is whether most people think the contrary.’
    • ‘He starts out by putting this in a negative way: the contrary would happen ‘very rarely’.’
    • ‘This was just the contrary of what all the sources were saying.’
    • ‘One possible interpretation of the words is that he wished to maintain the claim that children had been thrown overboard and did not want to examine evidence which might indicate the contrary.’
    • ‘We have thirty years of evidence to prove the contrary.’
    • ‘All evidence to this point would indicate the contrary.’
    • ‘There is simply no legal or linguistic rule that says the contrary.’
    • ‘If it weren't true, the US would have gleefully demonstrated the contrary.’
    • ‘Documented proof is available which will have to be produced to prove the contrary.’
    • ‘So although some journalism professors may worry that military embedding is subverting the media, I would argue the contrary.’
    • ‘Any editor worth his or her salt would have taken issue with journalists if they hadn't left the chamber for such an event, rather than the contrary.’
    • ‘I have never written anything to indicate the contrary.’
    • ‘There may be some success stories here and there, but overall, it seems to be accepted that the trend is a downwards one rather than the contrary if our results are anything to judge by.’
    • ‘Worse, it is hard to imagine any way either to prove this or 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.’
    • ‘Some authors promote the idea that maladjustment, particularly in later life, is virtually inevitable while others argue the contrary.’
    • ‘Well, their study may say that but the study that we've done indicates the contrary.’
    opposite, reverse, converse, antithesis
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  • 2Logic
    A contrary proposition.

    • ‘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 or running counter to.

      ‘contrary to his expectations, he found the atmosphere exciting’
      • ‘The results of my attempts to do this are interesting and run contrary to much popular belief.’
      • ‘He refused to comment on the nature of his release and insisted he had not been shot, contrary to earlier reports.’
      • ‘It is counterintuitive and contrary to everything that we have been told.’
      • ‘I know all the arguments in favour of that view but see them as contrary to all human experience.’
      • ‘Over the last decade, however, they have become known for a role contrary to their original intent.’
      • ‘And contrary to popular belief, the employees work all year round to make the poppies.’
      • ‘Yet such efforts will necessarily run contrary to British sympathies and our attitudes to the state.’
      • ‘They are strong, redolent of the dignity of human life, and contrary to many images of female nudity.’
      • ‘The findings seem to be quite contrary to the general belief that smoking is on the rise.’
      • ‘It would come across as being contrary to the romantic notion of the sharing of wine.’
      in conflict with, against, at variance with, at odds with, in opposition to, not in accord with, counter to, conflicting with, incompatible with
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  • on (or quite) the contrary

    • Used to intensify a denial of what has just been implied or stated by suggesting that the opposite is the case.

      ‘there was no malice in her; on the contrary, she was very kind’
      • ‘There is nothing disreputable or sinister in this, quite the contrary.’
      • ‘A liberal secular constitution does not mean intolerance for religious beliefs - quite the contrary.’
      • ‘And quite the contrary, we have increased oil production.’
      • ‘That is not to say that the film is bad, quite the contrary.’
      • ‘The costumes of the gentlemen guests, on the contrary, were rather dull and too modern-looking.’
      • ‘I would argue that the evidence shows quite the contrary and I will lay out some of that evidence here.’
      • ‘And that doesn't make them stupid or insular; quite the contrary, it's a pretty stupid and insular movie in the first place.’
      • ‘Your needs do not decrease on retirement, quite the contrary.’
      • ‘But I was pleasantly surprised when I found that this was quite the contrary.’
      conversely, in contrast, just the opposite, quite the opposite, just the reverse, quite the reverse
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  • to the contrary

    • With the opposite meaning or implication.

      ‘he continued to drink despite medical advice to the contrary’
      • ‘So if you can cite some evidence to the contrary, then that would be interesting.’
      • ‘We can no longer fool ourselves that smoking will not harm us if we continue - there is too much evidence to the contrary.’
      • ‘There is an increasingly persuasive body of evidence and learned opinion to the contrary.’
      • ‘Some consider this of negligible importance, but sound evidence exists to the contrary.’
      • ‘And while it may be tempting to take the apocalyptic view, there is ample evidence to the contrary.’
      • ‘Despite the evidence to the contrary, the Lord Mayor was not too concerned by what he was told.’
      • ‘They've been denying it existed despite obvious evidence to the contrary.’
      • ‘Those instincts were obviously sound, despite evidence to the contrary.’
      • ‘None of the correspondents has provided any evidence to the contrary.’
      • ‘Delusions are false beliefs which are held despite evidence to the contrary.’


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