\ 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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Now his meandering turns of phrase, which are often weird or outdated, are open to interpretation. Author: Roxanne Roberts, Anchorage Daily News, "The senior citizens running for president and how they try to look younger," 10 Nov. 2019 This is the season of the witch in the Massachusetts town of Salem, whose show trials and executions in 1692 evoked a phrase politicized by Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. National Geographic, "What can history teach us about a female future?," 21 Oct. 2019 Case in point is its new and improved iPhone app, which taps into machine learning and augmented reality to put students at the center of new words, phrases and the voices of native speakers. CNN Underscored, "Rosetta Stone's interactive app makes learning a new language easier and more fun," 17 Oct. 2019 That’s because Live Transcribe has an odd habit of pausing or stuttering, getting mostly everything completely right but then simply tripping over a phrase or two. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Try out the Google Pixel 4's Recorder transcription tech now, on your own phone," 15 Oct. 2019 And so a turn of a phrase in one language or another is potentially going to get some party in one of the countries extremely upset. Yanan Wang, San Diego Union-Tribune, "NBA’s reaction to Morey tweet differs in English, Chinese," 7 Oct. 2019 Sudan would get its name from the Arabic phrase, Bilad as-Sudan (land of the blacks). Ciku Kimeria, Quartz Africa, "The most unusual ways many African countries got their names," 6 Oct. 2019 New Age Norms is a phrase Maust had written on a tee shirt. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "Cold War Kids Announce First of Album Trilogy, 'New Age Norms 1,' Plus New Single 'Waiting For Your Love': Listen," 10 Sep. 2019 This phrase is frequently misattributed to Nelson Mandela and has been printed repeatedly on decorative inspirational posters and pillows. Molly Longman,, "Marianne Williamson Is A Wellness Guru Running For President. Really," 25 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Rio Salado’s classes teach students to be disciplined, deliver material in a clear way, to phrase thoughts well and to be a good communicator. Tj Gibson, azcentral, "Phoenix college proves education is more than just hitting the books," 4 June 2019 The orchestra’s phrasing in the whisper-quiet introduction was a bit shaggy, but the sections pulled together soon enough. Zoë Madonna,, "Boston Symphony Orchestra begins Tanglewood season in style," 7 July 2019 Despite the heft of his timbre, Burna’s phrasing always feels fleet, creating a sound that’s incredibly dense and impossibly dainty. Chris Richards, Washington Post, "Burna Boy is an ‘African Giant’ with a sound that defies geography," 6 Sep. 2019 In 2016, Trump supporters waved similarly phrased Make America Great Again hats. James Pindell,, "How Ross Perot paved the way for Donald Trump," 9 July 2019 Yi phrased lyrical passages well and showed remarkable poise. Tim Diovanni, Dallas News, "Clarinet trio shines in opening concert at Dallas’ Basically Beethoven Festival," 12 July 2019 The question was hypothetical, the answer phrased to emphasize it as such. Robert O'connell, The Atlantic, "Anthony Davis and LeBron James Are Uniquely Suited to Win," 17 June 2019 The board went back and forth on how to phrase its policy. Emma Kate Fittes, Indianapolis Star, "'We will do better': Acting HSE board president apologizes after controversial comments," 13 June 2019 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

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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Statistics for phrase

Last Updated

14 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for phrase

The first known use of phrase was in 1530

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More Definitions for phrase


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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