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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
Lip readers simultaneously construed a five-letter epithet dancing on the Sky player’s lips. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 10 June 2024 Indeed, the defining feature of Trump’s worldview is his belief that the United States has no obligation to pursue anything larger than its own self-interest, narrowly construed. Hal Brands, Foreign Affairs, 27 May 2024 Indeed, patience may be construed by some as a surrogate for human empathy and sensitivity, while impatience may be interpreted as the antithesis of such human characteristics. Sheldon H. Jacobson and Dr. Janet A. Jokela, Twin Cities, 30 May 2024 On the list: de-polarizing conversations and addressing head-on anything that might be construed as a hidden agenda. History / Elena Conis, TIME, 29 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for construe 

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 23 Jun. 2024.

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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