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

Definition of refrain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

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



Definition of refrain (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : 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
2 : a comment or statement that is often repeated

Other Words from refrain


refrainment \ ri-​ˈfrān-​mənt How to pronounce refrain (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for refrain

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of refrain in a Sentence

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: Verb Divorce: During an appearance at a Southern California high school last September, Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance suggested that people in violent marriages should refrain from getting divorced, Vice News’ Cameron Joseph writes. cleveland, 26 July 2022 Ahead of Biden's trip to the Middle East, which began with a multiple-day swing through Israel, officials said Biden would refrain from hand shakes with foreign leaders out of concerns about the COVID-19 virus. Joey Garrison, USA TODAY, 15 July 2022 Whereas any normal company with the usual governance procedures in place would refrain from commenting publicly beyond regulatory filings in an ongoing legal dispute, the comments are classic Musk. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 11 July 2022 Cheney emphasized that the committee's aims were not political, but also that the Justice Department should not refrain from prosecuting Trump out of concerns about political optics if the evidence warrants criminal prosecution. Amy B Wang,, 4 July 2022 Cheney emphasized that the committee’s aims were not political, but also that the Justice Department should not refrain from prosecuting Trump out of concerns about political optics if the evidence warrants criminal prosecution. Amy B Wang, Washington Post, 3 July 2022 For an optimum experience, the observatory recommends that visitors refrain from using flashlights or looking at bright lights during their visit. Shanti Lerner, The Arizona Republic, 30 June 2022 Police said citizens should refrain from confronting criminal suspects. Mike Mavredakis, Hartford Courant, 15 June 2022 The determination states the district was instructed to refrain from investigating the incident until further notice as there was an investigation being done by the local police and the Arkansas State Police. Monica Brich, Arkansas Online, 7 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Indeed, one common refrain in the spring was that Musk would, inevitably, ruin the social network. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 14 July 2022 The common refrain among those involved in the movie is that telling Petito’s story is a way to warn others about the dangers of staying in an abusive relationship. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 June 2022 One common refrain is that more regulation would hurt innovation. Ravi Gupta And Joseph S. Ross, STAT, 18 June 2022 One common refrain was the shock of dealing with the huge jump in food prices -- especially on meat, fruits and vegetables. Jeanne Sahadi, CNN, 27 May 2022 The refrain isn't new to a pandemic-weary world, two years after the covid-19 virus prompted curfews and closures, mask mandates, and debates over vaccine requirements. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 14 Feb. 2022 This constant refrain is, in a way, the coyote howl of social media. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, 10 Feb. 2022 Another common refrain is that 2022 will be a year riddled with distractions, infatuations and flights of fancy. Los Angeles Times, 30 Dec. 2021 The running refrain in my mind on seeing the tile displays was that this transcends a functional floor or wall covering. Dana Mcmahan, The Courier-Journal, 3 Nov. 2021 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.

First Known Use of refrain


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for refrain


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

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Time Traveler for refrain

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

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Dictionary Entries Near refrain

refractory ware



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Last Updated

29 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Refrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for refrain


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

Kids Definition of refrain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to keep from giving in to a desire or impulse I wanted to laugh but refrained.



Kids Definition of refrain (Entry 2 of 2)

: a phrase or verse repeated regularly in a poem or song

More from Merriam-Webster on refrain

Nglish: Translation of refrain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of refrain for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about refrain


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