con·​strue | \ kən-ˈstrü \
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 \

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 \ 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


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

This supposed payment would have violated NCAA amateurism rules and been construed by NCAA enforcement officers as an impermissible inducement to a recruit’s parent. Michael Mccann,, "Breaking Down Kevin Ollie's Case Against UConn and the University's Likely Defenses," 29 June 2018 Doing so might be construed as an admission of wrongdoing, prompting even more lawsuits than already exist. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "Johnson & Johnson accused of hiding the asbestos in its baby powder for decades," 14 Dec. 2018 Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting insurers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Jason Lewis, WSJ, "Who Lost The House? John McCain," 11 Nov. 2018 Lessons from the Arab Spring Iraqi politics is often construed as the politics of elites who strike deals among themselves to divide the spoils of power. Benedict Robin, Washington Post, "Why everyone failed to predict the leftist-Islamist alliance that won Iraq’s 2018 elections," 7 June 2018 Over Sanchez Deal Despite Mkhitaryan Arsenal Wage Demands) The gifting of shin pads to arguably the best team in Ireland, however, can perhaps be construed as a sign of the financial state of football in Ireland., "Irish PFA Give Dundalk Players Surprising Gift Ahead of Their 2018 Airtricity League Campaign," 17 Jan. 2018 Not all clergy in Australia agree on how broadly to construe what is covered by the seal. Rob Taylor And, WSJ, "New Laws Require Priests to Break the ‘Seal of Confession’," 3 Aug. 2018 In what could be construed as a haunting nod to the dangers of police work, the slab has room at the bottom for additional names. Kim Chatelain,, "Monument to fallen police officers unveiled in Covington," 1 May 2018 Under a 1997 court settlement, children must be released from detention as quickly as possible, which generally has been construed to be within 20 days. Elliot Spagat, Time, "California Judge Orders Immigrant Families to Be Reunited Within 30 Days," 27 June 2018

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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Last Updated

10 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for construe

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

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More Definitions for construe



English Language Learners Definition of construe

: 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 \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on construe

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with construe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for construe

Spanish Central: Translation of construe

Nglish: Translation of construe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of construe for Arabic Speakers

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