\ 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


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

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Synonyms for phrase

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Wright planned to release merchandise with the phrase, according to the paper. Sophie Lewis, CBS News, "University of Florida drops "Gator Bait" cheer due to term's "horrific historic racist imagery"," 19 June 2020 According to Ripple executive Ethan Beard, PayID has a similar design to the Internet's domain name system, which takes the string of numbers that define a website's address, and renders them as an everyday phrase like Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Ripple launches PayID allowing users to send digital payments across different platforms," 18 June 2020 It has also been suggested by commenters that the signs may have been Photoshopped with the offending phrase. Fox News, "Bride slammed on Reddit for 'tone deaf' sign reading 'Brides Lives Matter'," 16 June 2020 There was no chanting or blocking traffic, although some used a stencil to spray paint an obscene phrase about the police onto their skateboards. Sasha Hupka, azcentral, "Dozens of skateboarders join Phoenix's 18th consecutive day of police protests Sunday," 14 June 2020 When journalism is hijacked by activists, a phrase like that is often invoked. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, "The Mainstream Media Won’t Tell You This," 12 June 2020 In wake of the protests, Willis’ phrase has been radicalized. Mikeisha Vaughn, Essence, "Ghetto Until Proven Fashionable," 11 June 2020 Defunding police has become a catch phrase for some critics of law enforcement in Ohio and elsewhere in the nation but has not been formally proposed in Cleveland. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Cleveland councilman suggests ‘defunding’ police might initiate reform in the city," 10 June 2020 As the demonstrations against George Floyd’s asphyxiation began to boil in Minneapolis, the president warned that any looters would be shot, using a phrase synonymous with the violence of half a century ago. The Economist, "Lexington Far worse than Nixon," 4 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Edna’s will blazes up even in this tiny, hanging room of her own, as Virginia Woolf would famously phrase it nearly 30 years later. Claire Vaye Watkins, New York Times, "The Classic Novel That Saw Pleasure as a Path to Freedom," 27 Feb. 2020 O'Reilly phrased the question in military terms, asking whether the president would use drones to attack the cartels. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Mexico requests meeting with Pompeo after Trump floats plan to designate Mexican drug cartels as terror groups," 27 Nov. 2019 That last one is the top insult in this group — neoliberal shill, is how it would be phrased. Nellie Bowles, New York Times, "The Pied Pipers of the Dirtbag Left Want to Lead Everyone to Bernie Sanders," 11 Mar. 2020 New York Times critic Pete Wells famously skewered the restaurant in a 2012 review, where all 1,000-some words were phrased as a question. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, "Guy Fieri of Food Network is opening another restaurant near Dallas-Fort Worth," 4 Mar. 2020 But perhaps more incisive than the statement itself is the way it is phrased. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "The US health secretary is making anti-abortion speak official government language," 24 Jan. 2020 Colts coach Frank Reich said earlier this week when the question was phrased that way. Joel A. Erickson, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Colts’ success in running game makes Jacoby Brissett's passing issues even worse," 26 Dec. 2019 Imagine spending days preparing for an exam, studying not only the subject but the style of the professor: how questions are phrased, what's valued in answers, etc. Richard Morin, azcentral, "Arizona Coyotes prepare for 'dangerous' Maple Leafs after Toronto fires coach," 20 Nov. 2019 The survey’s questions are phrased in a way to encourage students to be honest about what is happening with them and in their school community, said Mary Cathryn Ricker, the state education commissioner. Christopher Magan, Twin Cities, "Vaping surges among MN youth, survey of students finds," 2 Oct. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of phrase


1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1556, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for phrase


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

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Time Traveler for phrase

Time Traveler

The first known use of phrase was in 1530

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Statistics for phrase

Last Updated

24 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phrase.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce phrase (audio)

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



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


\ 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


phrased; phrasing

Kids Definition of phrase (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on phrase

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phrase

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phrase

Spanish Central: Translation of phrase

Nglish: Translation of phrase for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phrase for Arabic Speakers

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