Counterpoint: 1 a : one or more independent melodies added above or below a given melody b : the combination of two or more independent melodies into a single harmonic texture in which each retains its linear character : polyphony 2 a : a complementing or contrasting item : opposite b : use of contrast or interplay of elements in a work of art (as a drama)

Counterpart: 1 : one of two corresponding copies of a legal instrument : duplicate 2 a : a thing that fits another perfectly b : something that completes : complement 3 a : one remarkably similar to another b : one having the same function or characteristics as another

When I wrote an earlier question I used the word "counterpart" to define "On the other hand" in reference to "On one hand", but, in their answers to the question, competent speakers of English language called the former "counterpoint", not "counterpart".

After having verified on Merriam Webster Dictionary Online, I cannot still understand the reason why I should use "counterpoint", rather than "counterpart".

Can anybody explain why "counterpoint" is proper English, while "counterpart" is not?

1 Answer 1


In your question the "on one hand" phrase is used to introduce a point of view and it is expected to be followed by a "but on the other hand" where a contrasting or opposite viewpoint is discussed. As shown in the definitions you cite, opposite and contrasting appear in the definition of counterpoint. The word can actually be taken apart to get "counter" and "point" meaning a point [point of view or point of argument] that is counter [opposite] to another.

The definition for counterpart discusses duplicates, things that fit together, and things that have similar functions.
So it does not seem to convey the opposite viewpoint meaning that is desired.

Counterpart might be used, for example, if I was the manager of the engineering department and I wished to talk about my counterpart who is the manager of the sales department. That is, we have the same function or characteristics just in different departments.

Here are some example uses of counterpart from Wordnik:

“I am posted to be working with the local district hospital here in Banyo and my counterpart is the head nurse who is originally from the western part of Cameroon.”

“Story: In New York City, an office building is violently jolted, leading the Fringe team to discover a lone survivor — well, technically, a pair of survivors, as the man in the wreckage has physically merged with his counterpart from the alternate reality.”

“In fact, a brand-name drug's generic counterpart is rarely an exact replica.”

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