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

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Other Words from contain

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

Assad’s purse was also missing, and it is believed to have contained an estimated $1,200 at the time of the crime. Chris Harris,, "Sister of NBA Star Kawhi Leonard Accused of Murdering 84-Year-Old Woman at Casino," 9 Sep. 2019 The Swedes Fire had burned 400 acres and was 20 percent contained as of Sunday morning, according to CalFire. Bay Area News Group, The Mercury News, "Swedes Fire map: Evacuations ordered in Butte County near Oroville," 8 Sep. 2019 Firefighters have yet to secure any containment of the Walker Fire in Plumas County, while the Red Bank Fire in Tehama County was 9 percent contained early Saturday. Steve Rubenstein,, "Two wildfires keep growing in Northern California, causing evacuations," 7 Sep. 2019 Taisumov will need to contain Ferreira’s jiu jitsu. Justin Barrasso,, "UFC 242 Live Blog: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier Meet in Main Event," 7 Sep. 2019 Trevor Noah didn’t even try to contain his laughter Wednesday night. al, "Late night hosts ridicule Trump’s Alabama Sharpie Dorian map," 5 Sep. 2019 Louisville struggled to contain Book on Monday, but give credit to Brian Kelly and that staff because some of those scrambles were designed RPOs for Book. Cameron Teague Robinson, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville football mailbag: Your questions on Jawon Pass, the Cardinals' roster and more, answered," 4 Sep. 2019 The results showed 80 percent of the streams had detectable amounts of one or more of the chemicals and 50 percent contained sever or more of the chemicals. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Dayton encouraging safe disposal of old, unused meds," 3 Sep. 2019 Peter explained the problem: one of the guys was carrying a new identity card, rumored to contain a chip that can be used to identify and track people down. Megan K. Stack, The New Yorker, "Bravery and Nihilism Amid the Protests in Hong Kong," 31 Aug. 2019

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 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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Statistics for contain

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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 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.

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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

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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