refrain

verb
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

refrain

noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from refrain

Verb

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

Synonyms for refrain

Synonyms: Noun

burden, chorus

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Sassi refrains from theorizing about why philosophy arose independently in three cultures around the same time. Peter Adamson, The New York Review of Books, "What Was Philosophy?," 17 June 2019 While the president, the vice president, and a few other high-level executive officials are exceptions, other federal employees must refrain from such politicking while in their official role. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "What exactly is the Hatch Act, and how did Kellyanne Conway break it?," 13 June 2019 The Ballard family has refrained from commenting on Tom’s disappearance. Andrew Bisharat, National Geographic, "Hope dims for climbers missing on the 'Killer Mountain'," 6 Mar. 2019 The case risks complicating U.S.-China trade negotiations, with the two sides having agreed to refrain from imposing new tariffs to try to seek a compromise within the next three months. Eva Dou, WSJ, "China Vows ‘Severe Consequences’ If Huawei Official Is Not Released," 8 Dec. 2018 Xi agreed with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, during a visit to the United States in 2015 to refrain from using military resources to steal commercial secrets. Joe Mcdonald, The Seattle Times, "US says China hacking increasing ahead of Trump-Xi meeting," 21 Nov. 2018 As part of the settlements, Lockton and Chubb both agreed to refrain from participating in Carry Guard or selling similar products to New York residents. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "The National Rifle Association, America’s most powerful lobby, claims it’s in financial crisis. What?," 3 Aug. 2018 The report didn’t criticize Mr. Trump directly, maintaining an approach of refraining from attacking the U.S. president, while using heated rhetoric against other Washington officials or policies. Andrew Jeong, WSJ, "U.S., North Korea in Informal Talks for Third Summit, South Korea’s Moon Says," 26 June 2019 Goetz suggested the entire 19-membercommission refrain from making a recommendation and leave it to the Fort Mitchell City Council to make its decision without the commission's input. Julia Fair, Cincinnati.com, "'Close friendships are close friendships.' Kenton County apartments move forward despite conflict of interest concerns," 26 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Once again, a shadow of a signal that scientists hoped would amplify into conclusive evidence of dark matter has instead flatlined, repeating a maddening refrain in the search for the invisible, omnipresent particles. Quanta Magazine, "Dwarf Galaxies Dim Hopes of Dark Matter," 25 Oct. 2014 The refrain from all of the American players after the match was 'well, goal difference, every one counts'. SI.com, "USA 13-0 Thailand: USWNT's Champagne Football Shatters World Cup Records in Reims," 11 June 2019 All of the candidates near the bottom of the pack offer the same refrain when asked about polls: it’s way too early for these surveys to matter. oregonlive.com, "Troubling portents for Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders as 2020 Democratic presidential race heats up, new polls arrive," 10 June 2019 Be careful that the refrain on that road isn’t finding new ways to be a victim and survive. Harmonyholiday, Longreads, "Mama Looks for Melanin," 6 June 2019 But while Fallon backed off the critical refrain, hearing comedians take the moral high ground against appalling acts of the administration seems to have become a routinized part of late night. Aja Romano, Vox, "“The sadness just writes itself”: late-night hosts on Trump’s border separation policy," 20 June 2018 That’s the three-part refrain of dark-matter detectives, including Tracy Slatyer, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Quanta Magazine, "A Seeker of Dark Matter’s Hidden Light," 1 Sep. 2016 The common refrain among digitally-native brands is that brick-and-mortar stores are relic. Emily Farra, Vogue, "La Ligne’s First Store Is Opening Today on Madison Avenue," 5 May 2019 The sophisticated and the relaxed' is a refrain that defines much of South Africa’s new cultural scene in these emerging neighborhoods. Pilar Guzmán, Condé Nast Traveler, "South Africa’s Other Big Five," 20 Dec. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of refrain

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for refrain

Verb

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

Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about refrain

Statistics for refrain

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for refrain

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for refrain

refrain

verb

English Language Learners Definition of refrain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal : to stop yourself from doing something that you want to do

refrain

noun

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

: a phrase or verse that is repeated regularly in a poem or song
: a comment or statement that is often repeated

refrain

verb
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.

refrain

noun

Kids Definition of refrain (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on refrain

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

WORD OF THE DAY

an act or instance of editing or removing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!