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re·​frain ri-ˈfrān How to pronounce refrain (audio)
refrained; refraining; refrains

intransitive verb

: to keep oneself from doing, feeling, or indulging in something and especially from following a passing impulse
refrained from having dessert
refrainment noun


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: a regularly recurring phrase or verse especially at the end of each stanza or division of a poem or song : chorus
also : the musical setting of a refrain
: a comment or statement that is often repeated

Example Sentences

Verb I was going to make a joke but I refrained. Noun A common refrain among teachers these days is that the schools need more funding. I didn't know the verses of the song, so I only sang on the refrain.
Recent Examples on the Web
Jurors were ordered to avoid all media coverage of the case and to refrain from conducting independent research. Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel, 21 Nov. 2022 And an Iranian cleric in the northwestern city of Urmia called for the punishment of athletes who refrain from singing the anthem, referring to the men’s water polo team, during Friday prayers. Astha Rajvanshi, Time, 21 Nov. 2022 The judge had cautioned family members on both sides to refrain from showing any emotion in the presence of the jury. Carol Robinson |, al, 18 Nov. 2022 Police and schools also are wrestling with how much information to share about them, trying to balance a desire to keep students safe, protect people's privacy and refrain from cause a public panic. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, 17 Nov. 2022 But loud scoffing was overheard several times by audience members, causing Glenview Village President Michael Jenny to ask attendees to refrain and remain respectful to hear all sides. Karie Angell Luc, Chicago Tribune, 17 Nov. 2022 However, there is the argument that Bytedance should disengage the ability to track users, and refrain from collecting data instead. Peter Suciu, Forbes, 10 Nov. 2022 Loved ones are more touchy than normal, so don't kid them and refrain from comment on any sensitive areas. Holiday Mathis, Arkansas Online, 7 Nov. 2022 Upon arriving in Bahrain on Thursday, Francis called for authorities to refrain from recourse to the death penalty and to ensure basic human rights are guaranteed for all citizens. Nicole Winfield, ajc, 6 Nov. 2022
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ plea had become a common refrain in the preceding weeks: If aggressive measures were taken, the virus could be contained. Caroline Hopkins, NBC News, 21 Nov. 2022 Barely one week before Lafayette Square, Trump had posted a tweet that would soon become a refrain. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 For Mickey Guyton, fighting for racial diversity in country music has become a passionate refrain in her career, not just a one-act show. Edward Segarra, USA TODAY, 13 June 2022 In what has become a common refrain after mass shootings, some have called for gun reform -- reform unlikely to pass the Senate with Republicans staunchly opposed. Rick Klein, ABC News, 16 May 2022 Blea had a familiar refrain repeated often by people who have gone through difficult times. John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sep. 2022 At the morning team meeting, Fournier heard a familiar refrain — discharging patients had become much more difficult. Jessica Bartlett,, 9 Sep. 2022 Jaylin Simpson teased a familiar refrain when asked about what to expect from Auburn’s defense this season. Tom Green |, al, 1 Sep. 2022 The safety was one of the first players to bring up what became a familiar refrain in exit interview media availabilities: Something chemistry-wise -- especially between the offense and defense -- simply felt off. Ashley Bastock, cleveland, 28 July 2022 See More

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

Word History



Middle English refreynen, from Anglo-French refreiner, refreindre, from Latin refrenare, from re- + frenum bridle — more at frenum


Middle English refreyn, from Middle French refrain, alteration of Old French refrait melody, response, from past participle of refraindre to break up, moderate, from Vulgar Latin *refrangere, alteration of Latin refringere — more at refract

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of refrain was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near refrain

Cite this Entry

“Refrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

refrain 1 of 2


re·​frain ri-ˈfrān How to pronounce refrain (audio)
: to hold oneself back
refrain from laughing


2 of 2


: a regularly repeated phrase or verse of a poem or song : chorus

More from Merriam-Webster on refrain

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