See more synonyms for refrain on
verb (used without object)
  1. to abstain from an impulse to say or do something (often followed by from): I refrained from telling him what I thought.
verb (used with object)
  1. Archaic. to curb.

Origin of refrain

1300–50; Middle English refreinen < Old French refrener < Latin refrēnāre to bridle, equivalent to re- re- + frēn(um) bridle + -āre infinitive suffix
Related formsre·frain·er, nounre·frain·ment, nounun·re·frained, adjectiveun·re·frain·ing, adjective
Can be confusedrefrain restrain

Synonyms for refrain

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for refraining

Contemporary Examples of refraining

Historical Examples of refraining

  • Augustin explained, refraining with difficulty from a dance of rage.

    The Wild Geese

    Stanley John Weyman

  • He himself had had some difficulty in breathing, and refraining with an effort from coughing.

    Boy Scouts on Hudson Bay

    G. Harvey Ralphson

  • If he is innocent you are doing him no service by refraining from helping us.

    The Grell Mystery

    Frank Froest

  • "He has been unfortunate," replied Nellie, refraining from an expression of her own feelings.

    Under Fire

    Frank A. Munsey

  • This also involves the power of restraint, the act or the refraining from action.

British Dictionary definitions for refraining


  1. (intr usually foll by from) to abstain (from action); forbear
Derived Formsrefrainer, nounrefrainment, noun

Word Origin for refrain

C14: from Latin refrēnāre to check with a bridle, from re- + frēnum a bridle


  1. a regularly recurring melody, such as the chorus of a song
  2. a much repeated saying or idea

Word Origin for refrain

C14: via Old French, ultimately from Latin refringere to break into pieces
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 refraining



mid-14c., from Old French refraigner "restrain, repress, keep in check" (12c., Modern French Réfréner), from Latin refrenare "to bridle, hold in with a bit, check, curb, keep down, control," from re- "back" (see re-) + frenare "restrain, furnish with a bridle," from frenum "a bridle." Related: Refrained; refraining.



late 14c., from Old French refrain "chorus" (13c.), alteration of refrait, noun use of past participle of refraindre "repeat," also "break off," from Vulgar Latin *refrangere "break off," alteration of Latin refringere "break up, break open" (see refraction) by influence of frangere "to break." Influenced in French by cognate Provençal refranhar "singing of birds, refrain." The notion is of something that causes a song to "break off" then resume. OED says not common before 19c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

refraining in Culture


In some pieces of verse, a set of words repeated at the end of each stanza.

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.