con·​tain | \ kən-ˈtān How to pronounce contain (audio) \
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

Other Words from contain

containable \ kən-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce contain (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for contain


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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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The dev team has also implemented a few more strips and poke-away animations for smaller guards to use to contain their opponent. Brian Mazique, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022 The US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection can inspect international mail without a warrant if a package appears to contain contraband. Aziza Ahmed, CNN, 3 Aug. 2022 Fans took note when Ariana Grande‘s newest R.E.M. Beauty drop appeared to contain a sweet shout-out to Mac Miller. Glenn Rowley, Billboard, 3 Aug. 2022 In the run-up to the March 2021 release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max, a number of executives and producers were targeted viciously by the Snyder Cut fandom, whose ranks were later found to contain a significant amount of fake accounts. Tatiana Siegel, Rolling Stone, 3 Aug. 2022 Nonetheless, Hogan said in a statement, the state is working to contain the outbreak. Meredith Cohn, Baltimore Sun, 2 Aug. 2022 Other states are also struggling to contain the monkeybox outbreak. Donovan J. Thomas, ajc, 2 Aug. 2022 The moves come amid reports of long wait times for shots and treatments and criticisms that the federal government hasn’t moved fast enough to contain the outbreak of the viral disease. Liz Essley Whyte, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2022 As the fire raged, crews worked to contain the flames to the warehouse and to keep it from spreading to neighboring buildings, Hernandez said. Karen Kucher, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of contain

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

History and Etymology for contain

Middle English conteynen, borrowed from Anglo-French cunteign-, cunteyn-, present tense stem of contenir, cuntenir, going back (with conjugation change) to Latin continēre "to hold together, restrain, have as contents," from con- con- + tenēre "to hold, occupy, possess" — more at tenant entry 1

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

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Contain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for contain


con·​tain | \ kən-ˈtān How to pronounce contain (audio) \
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.

More from Merriam-Webster on contain

Nglish: Translation of contain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of contain for Arabic Speakers


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