[ kuhn-teyn ]
See synonyms for: containcontainedcontainingcontains on

verb (used with object)
  1. to hold or include within its volume or area: This glass contains water.This paddock contains our best horses.

  2. to be capable of holding; have capacity for: The room will contain 75 persons safely.

  1. to have as contents or constituent parts; comprise; include.

  2. to keep under proper control; restrain: He could not contain his amusement.

  3. to prevent or limit the expansion, influence, success, or advance of (a hostile nation, competitor, opposing force, natural disaster, etc.): to contain an epidemic.

  4. to succeed in preventing the spread of: efforts to contain water pollution.

  5. Mathematics. (of a number) to be a multiple of; be divisible by, without a remainder: Ten contains five.

  6. to be equal to: A quart contains two pints.

Origin of contain

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English conte(y)nen, from Anglo-French contener, Old French contenir, from Latin continēre, equivalent to con- con- + -tinēre, verb suffix of tenēre “to hold” (see tenet)

synonym study For contain

1. Contain, accommodate, hold, express the idea that something is so designed that something else can exist or be placed within it. Contain refers to what is actually within a given container. Hold emphasizes the idea of keeping within bounds; it refers also to the greatest amount or number that can be kept within a given container. Accommodate means to contain comfortably or conveniently, or to meet the needs of a certain number. A passenger plane that accommodates 50 passengers may be able to hold 60, but at a given time may contain only 30.

Other words for contain

Other words from contain

  • con·tain·a·ble, adjective
  • pre·con·tain, verb (used with object)
  • un·con·tain·a·ble, adjective

Words Nearby contain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use contain in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for contain


/ (kənˈteɪn) /

  1. to hold or be capable of holding or including within a fixed limit or area: this contains five pints

  2. to keep (one's feelings, behaviour, etc) within bounds; restrain

  1. to consist of; comprise: the book contains three different sections

  2. military to prevent (enemy forces) from operating beyond a certain level or area

  3. maths

    • to be a multiple of, leaving no remainder: 6 contains 2 and 3

    • to have as a subset

Origin of contain

C13: from Old French contenir, from Latin continēre, from com- together + tenēre to hold

Derived forms of contain

  • containable, adjective

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