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

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


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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web In terms of hair products to prevent hair-dye fading, Friedman recommends choosing ones that don’t contain sulfates. Kristen Bateman, SELF, "These Are the 7 Products I Use to Maintain My Bright Hair Color at Home," 20 Nov. 2020 Though the exhibit doesn’t contain narration, the creative works reveal an artist who was passionate and expressive but deeply troubled. Patrick Connolly,, "‘Van Gogh Alive’ brings multi-sensory art experience to the Dali Museum," 19 Nov. 2020 The plane’s cockpit voice recorder was recovered but didn’t contain a recording of the crash flight, according to the report. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, "Baffling details emerge in report on fatal 2019 air ambulance crash in Southeast Alaska," 19 Nov. 2020 While driving from their home in Timonium to The Retreat at Beckleysville in Hampstead on Nov. 7, Martha Sanchez said her 18-year-old special needs son could not contain his excitement. Lois Szymanski,, "‘Everybody had a good day’: Horse lovers with special needs benefit from therapeutic riding, enjoy Halloween show in Hampstead," 17 Nov. 2020 The vaccines don’t contain any part of the virus, so recipients can’t become infected from the shots. NBC News, "What is mRNA? How Pfizer and Moderna tapped new tech to make coronavirus vaccines," 17 Nov. 2020 Levine said the lawsuit does not contain any allegation that somebody voted illegally. Arkansas Online, "Trump campaign drops key request in Pennsylvania lawsuit," 16 Nov. 2020 Pointing out that the Latino population has been especially affected by the pandemic, Lopez asked the Bidens what their plan is to contain the virus and eventually reopen the economy. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, "Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez Released a Video Endorsing Joe Biden," 17 Oct. 2020 Meanwhile, the future of the lot that was to contain the GetGo station/café is unknown, as is the site containing Hofer’s Auto Service at the corner 82 and Webster. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Cleveland Metroparks to preserve 24 acres in Strongsville after Giant Eagle withdraws GetGo plan," 13 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for contain

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for contain


How to pronounce contain (audio)

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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