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

transitive verb

: to analyze the arrangement and connection of words in (a sentence or sentence part)
construe this Latin sentence by Cicero
: 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
construable adjective


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con·​strue ˈkän-ˌstrü How to pronounce construe (audio)
: an act or the result of construing especially by piecemeal translation

Did you know?

Construe comes from the Latin verb construere, meaning "to construct." There is also misconstrue, meaning "to put a wrong construction (that is, a wrong interpretation) on" or "to misinterpret."

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
Nothing contained in this Settlement Agreement is or may be construed to be an admission by the Company of any violation of law or regulation, any other matter of fact or law, or any liability or wrongdoing. Beatrice Peterson, ABC News, 28 Aug. 2023 This subsection may not be construed to impose liability on any speech protected by federal or state law. Adeel Hassan, New York Times, 27 June 2023 This means not taking steps that could be construed as supporting Taiwan independence. Time, 27 June 2023 Those let out on bail, often after lengthy pretrial detentions, are now no longer allowed to participate in demonstrations, travel abroad without a court’s permission, or engage in activities that might in any way be construed as affecting the monarchy. Tamara Loos, Foreign Affairs, 25 May 2023 Military officials said the policies should not be construed as a more permissive stance on drug use once people are in the service. Ernesto Londoño, New York Times, 30 Apr. 2023 This could be construed as Data Science -> Generative AI, implying that data science is being applied to the crafting of generative AI. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 17 July 2023 What Sims-Fewer viewed as utopian ideals could be construed as hurtful and even downright offensive by others. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 16 May 2023 Natt had originally motioned to remove Helm, Riggs and another voter as a block, until the lawyer advised that this could be construed as systematically processing a mass challenge. Doug Bock Clark, ProPublica, 13 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'construe.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


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


1844, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near construe

Cite this Entry

“Construe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


construed; construing
: to explain the grammatical relationships of the words in a sentence, clause, or phrase
: to understand or explain the sense or intention of : interpret

More from Merriam-Webster on construe

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