The prefix contra- and its variant counter- mean “opposite” or “against.” Let’s take a look today to see just how productive instead of counterproductive we can get!
First let’s take a look at the primary prefix contra-, which means “opposite” or “against.” When you contradict someone, you speak “against” what she says. Your opinion then offers a contrast to hers, which is an “opposite” way of looking at something. If you tend to contradict what others say often, you are a contrary person, often acting “against” others to be difficult, or in the “opposite” way that other people act.
Now let’s move on to counter-, a variant of contra-, which also means “opposite” or “against.” If you counter an argument, you are providing an “opposite” viewpoint, thus going “against” what has been said. A weight or force that counterbalances another goes “against” it to even things up. When you counteract a proposal, you do things “against” it, just like counterattacking something is going “against” it after being attacked first.
Have you ever considered that counterfeit and counterclockwise are related? When a crook makes counterfeit money, he makes money that is the “opposite” of genuine cash, whereas a counterclockwise motion goes in the “opposite” direction that a clock’s hands usually run.
On two interesting side notes, a country is etymologically a land “opposite” another, in contrast to the land it is up “against.” Also, in the phrase “pros and cons,” cons is simply a shortening of the prefix contra-; if you’re offering the cons in an argument, you are going “against” something that has been proposed.
Continuing at this point about the prefixes contra- and counter- meaning “oppposite” or “against” is contraindicated, simply because our encounter with them has been sufficient!
- contradict: speak ‘against’
- contrast: that which stands ‘against’ something else, offering an ‘opposite’ viewpoint
- contrary: having the habit of often going ‘against’ what others do
- counter: to offer an ‘opposite’ opinion
- counterbalance: a weight or force placed ‘against’ another to even it out
- counteract: to do something ‘against’ or ‘opposite’ something else
- counterattack: to go ‘against’ something that has attacked you
- counterfeit: money that is made ‘opposite’ of real money
- counterclockwise: to move in a path ‘opposite’ that of a clock’s hands
- country: land ‘opposite’ another that butts up ‘against’ it
- con: evidence that speaks ‘against’ a proposal
- contraindicate: to indicate ‘against’
- encounter: to run up “against”