phrase

noun
\ ˈfrāz How to pronounce phrase (audio) \

Definition of phrase

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a characteristic manner or style of expression : diction
2a : a brief expression especially : catchphrase
b : word
3 : a short musical thought typically two to four measures long closing with a cadence
4 : a word or group of words forming a syntactic constituent with a single grammatical function an adverbial phrase
5 : a series of dance movements comprising a section of a pattern

phrase

verb
phrased; phrasing

Definition of phrase (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to express in words or in appropriate or telling terms
b : to designate by a descriptive word or phrase
2 : to divide into melodic phrases

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for phrase

Synonyms: Noun

expression, idiom

Synonyms: Verb

articulate, clothe, couch, express, formulate, put, say, state, word

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of phrase in a Sentence

Noun

Answer the questions in complete sentences, not phrases. She used the phrase “I strongly believe” too many times in her speech. Underline the key words or phrases in the paragraph. To borrow a phrase from my mother, I spend too much time “watching the boob tube” and not enough time outside.

Verb

He phrased his version of the story in a way that made him look good. The question was awkwardly phrased. The singer phrased the music beautifully.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In a computer, yes, but really in a cloud—and suddenly that phrase seemed completely insane. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Delete Your Account," 10 Feb. 2019 Lawyers and analysts worry that authorities could interpret that phrase with broad discretion. Chao Deng, WSJ, "China Speeds Long-Sought Foreign-Investment Law," 16 Jan. 2019 There is something a little milquetoast and benign about that phrase. New York Times, "Paul Rudd, Larger Than Life but Still Nice," 6 July 2018 My mother says these three phrases in quick succession, as though time and causation are the same thing. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "‘Choose Marriage or Education’," 29 May 2018 Speech: Check if the person's speech is slurred by asking them to repeat a simple phrase back to you. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Luke Perry Dies at 52 After 'Massive' Stroke," 4 Mar. 2019 Her fans, too, use the phrase as a way to amplify how Meghan is pushing boundaries. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Inside Meghan Markle's First 100 Days in the Royal Family," 27 Aug. 2018 The tweet incorrectly identified the author of the phrase as John Billlings. Johanna A. Álvarez, miamiherald, "Meet Poncho, the cute police dog that could save your life," 25 June 2018 Maybe not, but that breakfast at the Homegirl Cafe on Villaraigosa’s home turf — and the sidewalk news conference afterward — was an example of politics as usual, in the best sense of the phrase. John Wildermuth, SFChronicle.com, "Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa make nice, annoying John Cox," 19 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Effectively, that means he was fired, but the administration didn’t quite want to phrase it that way. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Read Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s resignation letter," 7 Nov. 2018 But now this needs to be phrased as a question, rather than a certainty that such voters would never support him. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, "How an Accident Could Happen in Britain," 27 Sep. 2018 Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul who understood vocal harmony and phrasing perhaps better than any of her female pop and soul contemporaries, died Thursday. Marc Myers, WSJ, "Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, Dies," 16 Aug. 2018 All are expected to want a voice in Republican strategy for Trump in the midterms, adding only more chaos, as one White House official phrased it, to an already unruly presidency. Anchorage Daily News, "Trump dismisses midterm threat, alarming GOP," 28 Apr. 2018 Why do people respond so differently depending on how a question is phrased? Eric Vanepps, Time, "The Best Way to Get People to Tell the Truth, According to Science," 11 July 2018 The trick, of course, is phrasing your command correctly and knowing that browsing and comparison shopping is impossible. Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY, "Shopping with Alexa on Amazon Prime day will be hard. These tricks make it easier," 13 July 2018 Robert: Keep a close ear and eye on how Bill Bradford phrases his answers in the police interview. Dateline Nbc, NBC News, "At the Desk of: Robert Dean, Dateline Producer of ‘The Threat’," 6 July 2018 The piano part — clearly articulated and sensitively phrased by Anne-Marie McDermott — is not overly virtuosic but delights in its unexpected wanderings. Christian Hertzog, sandiegouniontribune.com, "A rare, fiery performance of a Rebel ballet kicks off Mainly Mozart Festival," 10 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phrase.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of phrase

Noun

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1556, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for phrase

Noun

Latin phrasis, from Greek, from phrazein to point out, explain, tell

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phrase

Statistics for phrase

Last Updated

18 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for phrase

The first known use of phrase was in 1530

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for phrase

phrase

noun

English Language Learners Definition of phrase

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence
: a brief expression that is commonly used
music : a short section of a longer piece of music

phrase

verb

English Language Learners Definition of phrase (Entry 2 of 2)

: to say (something) in a particular way
: to perform (a piece of music) with the notes grouped together in a particular way

phrase

noun
\ ˈfrāz How to pronounce phrase (audio) \

Kids Definition of phrase

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not form a complete sentence The group of words “out the door” in “they ran out the door” is a phrase.
2 : a brief expression that is commonly used

phrase

verb
phrased; phrasing

Kids Definition of phrase (Entry 2 of 2)

: to express in words The boy was unable to phrase his idea.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on phrase

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phrase

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phrase

Spanish Central: Translation of phrase

Nglish: Translation of phrase for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phrase for Arabic Speakers

Comments on phrase

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

WORD OF THE DAY

something valued as if it were money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!