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 construe (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 These Republican attorneys general say that, once the tax penalty has been taken away, there is no longer any choice in the matter, and thus no way to construe the Affordable Care Act to give people that choice. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "How Amy Coney Barrett Could Affect the Future of the Affordable Care Act," 14 Oct. 2020 The case could provide a new test for how a conservative-leaning high court will construe the scope of federal voting rights protections. Brent Kendall And Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Supreme Court to Review Arizona Voting Rules," 2 Oct. 2020 And where there is coded language, which two different agencies might claim to construe slightly differently, there is opportunity for mischief — especially if a lawyer is involved. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Clinesmith Guilty Plea: Using a ‘Digraph’ to Conceal a Massive Deception of the Court," 25 Aug. 2020 Later in the day, Mulvaney denied that his earlier remarks should be construed as a quid pro quo involving Democrats and the 2016 election. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Mulvaney says White House withheld aid in part to press for Ukraine's cooperation in probe of 2016 election," 17 Oct. 2019 If that’s construed as discouraging workers from using the sick time they’ve accumulated, Mark Smith thinks the city could be in trouble. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "How a big paycheck led a high school lifeguard to sue St. Paul over sick leave," 10 June 2019 The problem of containing the terrorist threat was not construed as one of detection and policing. Tamsin Shaw, The New York Review of Books, "William Barr: The Carl Schmitt of Our Time," 15 Jan. 2020 Those annotations typically include summaries of judicial opinions construing each provision, summaries of pertinent opinions of the state attorney general, and a list of related law review articles and other reference materials. Bill Rankin, ajc, "Supreme Court says Georgia must provide official code free to public," 28 Apr. 2020 Leach tweeted out a coronavirus meme containing a hangman’s noose, which some construed to be a depiction of lynching. Creg Stephenson |, al, "Mississippi State’s Mike Leach will participate in ‘listening sessions’ after controversial tweet," 7 Apr. 2020

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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Cite this Entry

“Construe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for construe



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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