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para·​phrase ˈper-ə-ˌfrāz How to pronounce paraphrase (audio)
: a restatement of a text, passage, or work giving the meaning in another form
The teacher asked the students to write a paraphrase of the poem.
: the use or process of paraphrasing in studying or teaching composition
paraphrase, which aims rather at recapturing the general impression of a foreign workTimes Literary Supplement


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paraphrased; paraphrasing

intransitive verb

: to make a paraphrase

transitive verb

: to make a paraphrase of
paraphrasable adjective
paraphraser noun

Did you know?

When we paraphrase, we provide a version that can exist beside the original (rather than replace it). We paraphrase all the time. When you tell a friend what someone else has said, you're almost always paraphrasing, since you're not repeating the exact words. If you go to hear a talk, you might paraphrase the speaker's main points afterward for your friends. And when writing a paper on a short story, you might start off your essay with a paraphrase of the plot. Paraphrasing is especially useful when dealing with poetry, since poetic language is often difficult and poems may have meanings that are hard to pin down.

Examples of paraphrase in a Sentence

Noun This is just a paraphrase of what he said, not an exact quote. your essays on human rights should have some original thought and not be simply a paraphrase of what's in the textbook Verb I'm paraphrasing, but he did say something like that. could you paraphrase your diagnosis of my medical condition, using simpler language?
Recent Examples on the Web
In response to Thalberg’s exquisite paraphrases of operatic arias, Liszt evolved a sound that was symphonic in character—heavily resonant yet spectacularly mobile, activating all the registers of the instrument. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 And while that may be a rather poor paraphrase, the sentiment still sticks for why both fostering and adopting is so important to saving the lives of homeless pets. The Republic, The Arizona Republic, 21 July 2023 But that was only a paraphrase of his own primer for audiences. Robert D. McFadden, New York Times, 8 July 2023 So, has the internet replaced television to become, in a paraphrase of media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the medium and the message? Stephen Pastis, Fortune, 6 July 2023 This is reputedly a paraphrase of an assertion of Genghis Khan. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 28 Apr. 2011 These lyrics do a lot of work, work that transcends paraphrase. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, 30 Aug. 2022 This is not an unfair paraphrase. Sean Carroll, Discover Magazine, 5 Apr. 2011 That was a paraphrase by me, but very close. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 15 Feb. 2023
Or perhaps — to paraphrase the title of another nimble, funny, and devastating story of sickness — people like Baker’s are the only people here. Sara Holdren, Vulture, 12 Sep. 2023 To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the stupidity is the message. Gyasi Hall, Longreads, 12 Sep. 2023 Pop radio regarded him as, to paraphrase Elvis Costello, even less than zero. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Sep. 2023 To paraphrase my generation’s poet laureate, August really did slip away into a moment in time. Andrew Joseph, STAT, 24 Aug. 2023 To paraphrase another famous poet: Sincerity, thy name is J.Lo. Kathleen Walsh, Glamour, 17 Aug. 2023 To paraphrase Shakespeare, love is not love which bends with the tow-truck driver to remove; with a Lotus, periodic interruption of service is worth the way the cars get under your skin. Brendan McAleer, Car and Driver, 13 Aug. 2023 This unauthorized biography, forced to paraphrase many of Wilson’s letters, early plays and poetry, may not offer the kind of detailed critical readings found in other monumental biographies — James Knowlson on Samuel Beckett, Michael Meyer on Henrik Ibsen, Michael Holroyd on George Bernard Shaw. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug. 2023 To paraphrase The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, the last seven years have produced a single big meta-scandal. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 20 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'paraphrase.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun and Verb

Middle French, from Latin paraphrasis, from Greek, from paraphrazein to paraphrase, from para- + phrazein to point out

First Known Use


1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1598, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of paraphrase was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near paraphrase

Cite this Entry

“Paraphrase.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
para·​phrase ˈpar-ə-ˌfrāz How to pronounce paraphrase (audio)
: a way of stating something (as a written work) again by giving the meaning in different words


2 of 2 verb
paraphrased; paraphrasing
: to give the meaning in different words
paraphrased the author's account
paraphraser noun

More from Merriam-Webster on paraphrase

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