con·​strue | \ kən-ˈstrü How to pronounce construe (audio) \
construed; construing

Definition of construe

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to analyze the arrangement and connection of words in (a sentence or sentence part) construe this Latin sentence by Cicero
2 : to understand or explain the sense or intention of usually in a particular way or with respect to a given set of circumstances construed my actions as hostile Her frustration was construed as anger.

intransitive verb

: to construe a sentence or sentence part especially in connection with translating


con·​strue | \ ˈkän-ˌstrü How to pronounce construe (audio) \

Definition of construe (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act or the result of construing especially by piecemeal translation

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Other Words from construe


construable \ kən-​ˈstrü-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce construable (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?

Construe can usually be translated as "interpret". It's often used in law; thus, an Attorney General might construe the term "serious injury" in a child-abuse law to include bruises, or a judge might construe language about gifts to "heirs" to include spouses. The IRS's construal of some of your activities might be different from your own—and much more expensive at tax time. Construing is also close to translating; so when the British say "public school", for instance, it should be construed or translated as "prep school" in American terms.

Examples of construe in a Sentence

Verb The way the court construes various words has changed over time. the role of the justices of the Supreme Court in construing the constitution
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Richard Jewell, with its streamlined perspective on these events and deeply symbolic treatment of its characters, can be construed as a religious text as much as a narrative one, morose with meaning and full of wrath. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "What to Watch (and Skip) in Theaters and on Netflix This Weekend," 13 Dec. 2019 Washington — The beginning of the Supreme Court’s term this week includes momentous oral arguments on Tuesday in two cases that illustrate clashing theories about how statutes should be construed. George Will, National Review, "Supreme Court to Decide Whether ‘Sex’ Includes Sexual Orientation," 6 Oct. 2019 But centrists say those numbers are soft and stressed that support for an impeachment inquiry should not be construed as support for articles of impeachment. Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times, "Why Nancy Pelosi is confident as she confronts Trump on impeachment inquiry," 28 Sep. 2019 When Chris Mack expresses a desire for more aggressive play, this should not be construed as a coded message condoning assault. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "For better or worse, the Kentucky-Louisville basketball rivalry is growing more civilized," 28 Dec. 2019 The flattering Michael Jordan comparison constituted tampering since it could be construed as an attempt by Rivers to lure Leonard, who is obviously still under contract to the Raptors, to the Clippers. Michael Mccann,, "Kawhi Leonard vs. Nike: Analyzing the Raptors' Star's Logo Lawsuit," 4 June 2019 Most app developers are careful about saying anything that might be construed as critical of Apple. Reed Albergotti, Washington Post, "Apple suppressed competitors in its App Store--until it got caught, a lawsuit alleges," 20 Dec. 2019 The payment made to the undersigned under this agreement is not to be construed as an admission of liability,’’ the settlement says. oregonlive, "City to pay $10,000 to settle protester’s lawsuit alleging battery by Portland police," 21 Oct. 2019 Domestic violence is extraordinarily serious and everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior — whether intentional or not — that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence. Des Bieler, The Denver Post, "Sports Illustrated reporter describes “shocking” incident with Astros executive," 23 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'construe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of construe


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1844, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for construe


Middle English, from Late Latin construere, from Latin, to construct

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Time Traveler for construe

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The first known use of construe was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Construe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for construe


How to pronounce construe (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of construe

somewhat formal
: to understand (an action, event, remark, etc.) in a particular way
: to understand the meaning of (a word, phrase, or sentence)


con·​strue | \ kən-ˈstrü How to pronounce construe (audio) \
construed; construing

Kids Definition of construe

: to understand or explain the sense or intention of He mistakenly construed my actions as unfriendly.

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