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


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

The president’s statement probably couldn’t be construed as an admission of illegality in the Trump campaign’s turning of a blind eye to Russia’s 2016 efforts to pump up his candidacy and knock down Hillary Clinton’s. Willie Brown,, "Of course Trump would consider using foreign-supplied dirt. Who wouldn’t?," 15 June 2019 Artists famous for activism around masters, like Prince, have construed the issue strictly as a labor-versus-management struggle, a matter of individual artists’ rights, not as a question of collective cultural patrimony. New York Times, "The Day the Music Burned," 11 June 2019 Wilhelm Furtwängler’s refusal to emigrate, however else construed, is not irrelevant here. Joseph Horowitz, WSJ, "‘Wilhelm Furtwängler’ Review: Apostle of Inwardness," 3 Aug. 2018 Still, the decision to mediate should not be construed as a settlement or a sign that a settlement nears. Michael Mccann,, "What Mediation Means for U.S. Soccer, USWNT in Gender Discrimination Lawsuit," 21 June 2019 How else could restrictions on our social-media activity be construed as a violation of the First Amendment? Sam Sweeney, National Review, "Close Your Social-Media Accounts," 10 June 2019 Advocating on behalf of clients, Secrest said, should not be construed as improper behavior. Zach Despart, Houston Chronicle, "Harris County public defender keeps job amid questions from Commissioners Court," 12 June 2018 Much as Americans delighted in American Pharoah completing the Triple Crown in 2015, the sight of Victor Espinoza whipping the colt 32 times en route to the finish line at Churchill Downs could easily have been construed as animal abuse. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Horse racing should make whip violations more painful for jockeys," 10 June 2019 In that sense, his actions and comments could be construed not as disloyal, but perhaps even as patriotic. Jeffrey L. Gould, The New Republic, "Making Sense of Bernie’s Sandinista Sympathies," 6 June 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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Statistics for construe

Last Updated

11 Jul 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

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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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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