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[freyz] /freɪz/
  1. a sequence of two or more words arranged in a grammatical construction and acting as a unit in a sentence.
  2. (in English) a sequence of two or more words that does not contain a finite verb and its subject or that does not consist of clause elements such as subject, verb, object, or complement, as a preposition and a noun or pronoun, an adjective and noun, or an adverb and verb.
Rhetoric. a word or group of spoken words that the mind focuses on momentarily as a meaningful unit and is preceded and followed by pauses.
a characteristic, current, or proverbial expression:
a hackneyed phrase.
Music. a division of a composition, commonly a passage of four or eight measures, forming part of a period.
a way of speaking, mode of expression, or phraseology:
a book written in the phrase of the West.
a brief utterance or remark:
In a phrase, he's a dishonest man.
Dance. a sequence of motions making up part of a choreographic pattern.
verb (used with object), phrased, phrasing.
to express or word in a particular way:
to phrase an apology well.
to express in words:
to phrase one's thoughts.
  1. to mark off or bring out the phrases of (a piece), especially in execution.
  2. to group (notes) into a phrase.
verb (used without object), phrased, phrasing.
Music. to perform a passage or piece with proper phrasing.
Origin of phrase
1520-30; (noun) back formation from phrases, plural of earlier phrasis < Latin phrasis diction, style (plural phrasēs) < Greek phrásis diction, style, speech, equivalent to phrá(zein) to speak + -sis -sis; (v.) derivative of the noun
Related forms
misphrase, verb (used with object), misphrased, misphrasing.
unphrased, adjective
Can be confused
frays, phrase (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. Phrase, expression, idiom, locution all refer to grammatically related groups of words. A phrase is a sequence of two or more words that make up a grammatical construction, usually lacking a finite verb and hence not a complete clause or sentence: shady lane (a noun phrase); at the bottom (a prepositional phrase); very slowly (an adverbial phrase). In general use, phrase refers to any frequently repeated or memorable group of words, usually of less than sentence length or complexity: a case of feast or famine—to use the well-known phrase. Expression is the most general of these words and may refer to a word, a phrase, or even a sentence: prose filled with old-fashioned expressions. An idiom is a phrase or larger unit of expression that is peculiar to a single language or a variety of a language and whose meaning, often figurative, cannot easily be understood by combining the usual meanings of its individual parts, as to go for broke. Locution is a somewhat formal term for a word, a phrase, or an expression considered as peculiar to or characteristic of a regional or social dialect or considered as a sample of language rather than as a meaning-bearing item: a unique set of locutions heard only in the mountainous regions of the South. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for phrases


a group of words forming an immediate syntactic constituent of a clause Compare clause (sense 1), noun phrase, verb phrase
a particular expression, esp an original one
(music) a small group of notes forming a coherent unit of melody
(in choreography) a short sequence of dance movements
verb (transitive)
(music) to divide (a melodic line, part, etc) into musical phrases, esp in performance
to express orally or in a phrase
Word Origin
C16: from Latin phrasis, from Greek: speech, from phrazein to declare, tell
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for phrases



1520s, "manner or style of expression," also "group of words with some unity," from Late Latin phrasis "diction," from Greek phrasis "speech, way of speaking, enunciation, phraseology," from phrazein "to express, tell," from phrazesthai "to consider," from PIE *gwhren- "to think" (see frenetic). The musical sense of "short passage" is from 1789.



"to put into a phrase," 1560s; see phrase (n.). Related: Phrased; phrasing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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phrases in Culture

phrase definition

A group of grammatically connected words within a sentence: “One council member left in a huff”; “She got much satisfaction from planting daffodil bulbs.” Unlike clauses, phrases do not have both a subject and a predicate.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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