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[v. kuh n-trast, kon-trast; n. kon-trast] /v. kənˈtræst, ˈkɒn træst; n. ˈkɒn træst/
verb (used with object)
to compare in order to show unlikeness or differences; note the opposite natures, purposes, etc., of:
Contrast the political rights of Romans and Greeks.
verb (used without object)
to exhibit unlikeness on comparison with something else; form a contrast.
Linguistics. to differ in a way that can serve to distinguish meanings: The sounds (p) and (b) contrast in the words “pin” and “bin.”.
the act of contrasting; the state of being contrasted.
a striking exhibition of unlikeness.
a person or thing that is strikingly unlike in comparison:
The weather down here is a welcome contrast to what we're having back home.
opposition or juxtaposition of different forms, lines, or colors in a work of art to intensify each element's properties and produce a more dynamic expressiveness.
Photography. the relative difference between light and dark areas of a print or negative.
Television. the brightness ratio of the lightest to the darkest part of the television screen image.
Linguistics. a difference between linguistic elements, especially sounds, that can serve to distinguish meanings.
Origin of contrast
1480-90; (v.) < Middle French contraster < Italian contrastare to contest < Latin contrā- contra-1 + stāre to stand; (noun) earlier contraste < French < Italian contrasto conflict, derivative of contrastare
Related forms
contrastable, adjective
contrastably, adverb
contrastingly, adverb
quasi-contrasted, adjective
uncontrastable, adjective
uncontrastably, adverb
uncontrasted, adjective
uncontrasting, adjective
well-contrasted, adjective
Can be confused
compare, contrast (see usage note at compare)
1. differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, oppose. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for contrast
  • Compare and contrast causes for extinction, past and present.
  • Ask students to compare and contrast several of the countries.
  • After all students have presented their reports, have students compare and contrast information.
  • In contrast to the plain walls, these bear elaborate designs.
  • In contrast, next door is what appears to be a dilapidated steel plant facing foreclosure.
  • They were a wholesome and pleasant contrast to the rondeaux and delicate decadence of which healthy readers had grown sick.
  • There is a chance of an allergic reaction to the dye, even if you have received contrast dye in the past without any problem.
  • contrast dye flows through the catheter into the bladder.
  • The x-rays are taken from various angles while the bladder is full of contrast dye.
  • Also mention if you've had allergic reactions to x-ray contrast material or any iodine-containing substance.
British Dictionary definitions for contrast


verb (kənˈtrɑːst)
(often foll by with) to distinguish or be distinguished by comparison of unlike or opposite qualities
noun (ˈkɒntrɑːst)
distinction or emphasis of difference by comparison of opposite or dissimilar things, qualities, etc (esp in the phrases by contrast, in contrast to or with)
a person or thing showing notable differences when compared with another
(in painting) the effect of the juxtaposition of different colours, tones, etc
  1. (of a photographic emulsion) the degree of density measured against exposure used
  2. the extent to which adjacent areas of an optical image, esp on a television screen or in a photographic negative or print, differ in brightness
(psychol) the phenomenon that when two different but related stimuli are presented close together in space and/or time they are perceived as being more different than they really are
Derived Forms
contrastable, adjective
contrastably, adverb
contrasting, adjective
contrastive, adjective
contrastively, adverb
Word Origin
C16: (n): via French from Italian, from contrastare (vb), from Latin contra- against + stare to stand
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
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Word Origin and History for contrast

1690s, from French contraster (Old French contrester), modified by or from Italian contrastare "stand out against, strive, contend," from Vulgar Latin *contrastare "to withstand," from Latin contra "against" (see contra) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet).

Middle English had contrest "to fight against, to withstand," which became extinct. Modern word re-introduced as an art term. Related: Contrasted; contrasting; contrastive.


1711, from contrast (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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