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[koun-ter-point] /ˈkaʊn tərˌpɔɪnt/
Music. the art of combining melodies.
Music. the texture resulting from the combining of individual melodic lines.
a melody composed to be combined with another melody.
Also called counterpoint rhythm. Prosody, syncopation (def 2).
any element that is juxtaposed and contrasted with another.
verb (used with object)
to emphasize or clarify by contrast or juxtaposition.
Origin of counterpoint
late Middle English
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for counterpoint
  • When in his fifties he wished to write music, he took up for the first time the study of counterpoint.
  • Blue-green pots on the patio provide a cool counterpoint to a red trellis on the shed wall.
  • Warm-toned fabrics are similar in color to the walls, and green concrete fireplace tiles act as a counterpoint.
  • In the blink of this horse's eye, the blue sky becomes a counterpoint to its stare.
  • Occasionally, the wood thrush launches into a series of sustained intonations, a haunting counterpoint to his primary song.
  • Point and counterpoint is an appealing construct when it comes to movie reviews, sports predictions, and even politics.
  • See this counterpoint on methane releases and shale gas.
  • The single counterpoint is represented by the computer user.
  • It's probably too late, droned the counterpoint in my head.
  • Even the exuberant pop music on the soundtrack is used as a counterpoint to the characters' enclosed meanness and malaise.
British Dictionary definitions for counterpoint


the technique involving the simultaneous sounding of two or more parts or melodies
a melody or part combined with another melody or part See also descant (sense 1)
the musical texture resulting from the simultaneous sounding of two or more melodies or parts
strict counterpoint, the application of the rules of counterpoint as an academic exercise
a contrasting or interacting element, theme, or item; foil
(prosody) the use of a stress or stresses at variance with the regular metrical stress
(transitive) to set in contrast
adjective contrapuntal
Word Origin
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 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 counterpoint

early 15c., of stitching, from Old French cuilte contrepointe "quilt stitched through and through," altered from coute pointe, from Medieval Latin culcita puncta "quilted mattress," from Latin culcita "cushion" + puncta, fem. past participle of pungere "to prick, stab" (see pungent).

Of music, mid-15c., from Old French contrepoint, from Medieval Latin cantus contrapunctus, from contrapunctum, from Latin 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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counterpoint in Culture

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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