con·​tain | \kən-ˈtān \
contained; containing; contains

Definition of contain 

transitive verb

1 : to keep within limits: such as

a : restrain, control could hardly contain her enthusiasm

b : check, halt contain the spread of a deadly disease Firefighters contained the wildfire.

c : to follow successfully a policy of containment toward efforts to contain Communism

d : to prevent (an enemy or opponent) from advancing or from making a successful attack

2a : to have within : hold The box contains old letters.

b : comprise, include The bill contains several new clauses.

3a : to be divisible by usually without a remainder

b : enclose, bound

intransitive verb

: to restrain oneself

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Other Words from contain

containable \kən-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl \ adjective

Synonyms for contain


bear, boast, hold

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Choose the Right Synonym for contain

contain, hold, accommodate mean to have or be capable of having within. contain implies the actual presence of a specified substance or quantity within something. the can contains a quart of oil hold implies the capacity of containing or the usual or permanent function of containing or keeping. the bookcase will hold all my textbooks accommodate stresses holding without crowding or inconvenience. the hall can accommodate 500 people

Examples of contain in a Sentence

The room was barely big enough to contain everyone who came to the meeting. The book contains over 200 recipes. The article contains information on how to plan your retirement. foods that contain a high level of fat The movie contains something for both children and adults. State health officials have succeeded in containing the virus.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Technically speaking, hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Angela Chen, The Verge, "Growing hemp is about to be legal for the first time in nearly a century," 30 Nov. 2018 These groups are often advised by their doctors to avoid eating foods that may contain pathogens anyway. Jim Prevor, WSJ, "Lettuce Try Not to Panic," 29 Nov. 2018 The attacks arrive in spear-phishing emails and in some cases postal packages that contain design documents and plans. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Why AutoCAD malware keeps chugging on," 27 Nov. 2018 Hoecker has seed trays, about 20 inches by 10 inches, that contain either 50 planted seeds of Douglas fir or 50 seeds of lodgepole pine, as well as control trays with zero seeds. Kristen Pope, Discover Magazine, "Wildfire Engulfed Yellowstone 30 Years Ago. Its Recovery Could Predict The Future of the West," 12 Nov. 2018 The system uses a type of carbon called graphene, a super strong material that contains a single layer of atoms. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "It Just Got Easier to Make Hordes of Blood Cell-Sized Robots All at Once," 23 Oct. 2018 Ignite sells bottles that contain 1000 milligrams of CBD for just $65 in delicious flavors like blood orange, lavender, and my favorite, tropical fruit. Allure, "12 CBD Tinctures, Gummies, and Drinks That Help Calm Anxiety," 23 Oct. 2018 And more than a few backstage experts and supermodels swear by Viviscal, a popular hair-growth vitamin that also contains silicon, along with amino acids and horsetail extract. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "6 Foolproof Tips for Growing Out Your Hair, According to Pro Stylists," 20 Oct. 2018 Rye Whiskey: Must be made from a mash bill (or recipe) that contains at least 51 percent rye. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "How to Drink Whiskey: A Complete Guide," 1 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contain.' 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 contain

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

History and Etymology for contain

Middle English conteinen, from Anglo-French cunteign-, cuntyen-, stem of cuntenir, from Latin continēre to hold together, hold in, contain, from com- + tenēre to hold — more at thin

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Statistics for contain

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contain

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

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More Definitions for contain



English Language Learners Definition of contain

: to have (something) inside

: to have or include (something)

: to keep (something) from spreading : to keep (something) within limits


con·​tain | \kən-ˈtān \
contained; containing

Kids Definition of contain

1 : to have within : hold The box contained some old books.

2 : to consist of or include The building contains classrooms.

3 : to keep within limits : restrain, check The fire was contained. I tried to contain my anger.

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More from Merriam-Webster on contain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contain

Spanish Central: Translation of contain

Nglish: Translation of contain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contain for Arabic Speakers

Comments on contain

What made you want to look up contain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having a pattern of small flowers

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