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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.
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 contrasted
  • Climate can be contrasted to weather, which is the present condition of these same elements over periods up to two weeks.
  • Intuitive thinking is frequently contrasted with logical thinking.
  • The calm determination of our heroes and the hypnotic clicking of their tricycles contrasted with the din of the thundering city.
  • Spectacular photography of the mountain prior to the explosion is harshly contrasted with the apocalyptic post-eruption scenery.
  • The interview contrasted with earlier signals from the group.
  • Oftentimes the attraction of a contrasted physical type is plainly discernible.
  • Children's books of thirty years ago contrasted with present day children's books.
  • The golden sheen of the instruments contrasted with the creamy white of the walls and the blue of the skylight above.
  • He makes luxurious compositions of whole or segmented bodies set against teasingly contrasted backdrops.
  • The unorthodox, uncredentialed teacher is contrasted with a cruel-but more respected-educator.
British Dictionary definitions for contrasted


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 contrasted



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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