the act of forming phrases.
a manner or method of forming phrases; phraseology.
Music. the grouping of the notes of a musical line into distinct phrases.

Origin of phrasing

First recorded in 1605–15; phrase + -ing1




  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, phras·ing.

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, phras·ing.

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 formsmis·phrase, verb (used with object), mis·phrased, mis·phras·ing.un·phrased, adjective
Can be confusedfrays phrase (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for phrase

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for phrasing

Contemporary Examples of phrasing

Historical Examples of phrasing

  • I have only one reply for these persons; and, phrasing it as politely as I can, I say to them that they are all liars.

    The Old Game

    Samuel G. Blythe

  • The phrasing was unfortunate, though its conciliatory intention was obvious.

    Cleo The Magnificent

    Louis Zangwill

  • No amount of hacking work can take away the eloquence of this phrasing.

  • He hung fire; he wanted me to help him by phrasing what he meant.

  • For Bathsheba's phrasing of life was in the monosyllables of a rigid faith.

    The Guardian Angel

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

British Dictionary definitions for phrasing



the way in which something is expressed, esp in writing; wording
music the division of a melodic line, part, etc, into musical phrases



a group of words forming an immediate syntactic constituent of a clauseCompare clause (def. 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 (tr)

music to divide (a melodic line, part, etc) into musical phrases, esp in performance
to express orally or in a phrase

Word Origin for phrase

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

Word Origin and History for phrasing

1610s, verbal noun from phrase (v.).



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

phrasing in Culture


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.