1 : to analyze the arrangement and connection of words in (a sentence or sentence part)
2 : to understand or explain the sense or intention of usually in a particular way or with respect to a given set of circumstances
Did You Know?
In the 14th century, English speakers acquired the closely linked words construe and construction. You may think of construction as a word having to do with building houses or highways, but it has long had other meanings, including "the arrangement of words in a sentence" and "interpretation." Similarly, construe can mean "to analyze the arrangement and connection of words in a sentence" or "to interpret or explain." Both construe and construction come from the Latin verb construere ("to construct or construe"). In the 15th century, English speakers added mis- to construe to create misconstrue, a word meaning "to put a wrong construction (that is, a wrong interpretation) on."
"A tall, slim girl, 'half-past sixteen,' with serious gray eyes and hair which her friends called auburn, had sat down …, firmly resolved to construe so many lines of Virgil." — Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea, 1909
"He liked barge-size American automobiles, and regularly wore a Stetson. Such habits were not to be construed as affectation. Melville was immune to the idle whim." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 1 May 2017
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
What 5-letter verb means "to divide (a sentence) into grammatical parts and identify the parts and their relations to each other"?VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP