counter-point

counterpoint

[koun-ter-point]
noun
1.
Music. the art of combining melodies.
2.
Music. the texture resulting from the combining of individual melodic lines.
3.
a melody composed to be combined with another melody.
4.
Also called counterpoint rhythm. Prosody, syncopation ( def 2 ).
5.
any element that is juxtaposed and contrasted with another.
verb (used with object)
6.
to emphasize or clarify by contrast or juxtaposition.

Origin:
1400–50; late Middle English < Middle French contrepoint, translation of Medieval Latin (cantus) contrāpūnctus literally, (song) pointed or pricked against, referring to notes of an accompaniment written over or under the notes of a plainsong. See counter-, point

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World English Dictionary
counterpoint (ˈkaʊntəˌpɔɪnt)
 
n
1.  the technique involving the simultaneous sounding of two or more parts or melodies
2.  See also descant a melody or part combined with another melody or part
3.  the musical texture resulting from the simultaneous sounding of two or more melodies or parts
4.  strict counterpoint the application of the rules of counterpoint as an academic exercise
5.  a contrasting or interacting element, theme, or item; foil
6.  prosody the use of a stress or stresses at variance with the regular metrical stress
 
vb
7.  (tr) to set in contrast
 
Related: contrapuntal
 
[C15: from Old French contrepoint, from contre-counter- + point dot, note in musical notation, that is, an accompaniment set against the notes of a melody]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

counterpoint
1423, of stitching, from O.Fr. cuilte contrepointe "quilt stitched through and through," altered from coute pointe, from M.L. culcita puncta "quilted mattress," from L. culcita "cushion" + puncta, fem. pp. of pungere "to prick, stab" (see pungent). Of music, 1530, from M.Fr.
contrepoint, from M.L. contrapunctum, from L. contra + puncta, with reference to the indication of musical notes by "pricking" with a pointed pen over or under the original melody on a manuscript.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

counterpoint definition


The use of two or more melodies at the same time in a piece of music; it was an important part of baroque music. Certain composers, such as Johann Sebastian Bach, have been especially skillful at counterpoint.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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