The Meaning of Refrain: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of refrain? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word refrain, including its definition, usage, word origin, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word refrain mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and other English dictionaries like American Heritage and Collins English dictionary, the word refrain can either be used as a verb or a noun. As a verb, this word means to keep oneself from doing, indulging, or feeling something. Archaically, this intransitive verb was once used as a transitive verb meaning to curb or restrain. As a noun, the word refrain usually refers to a regular recurring verse or phrase after each stanza of a poem or song. This is also referred to as the chorus. Refrain is two syllables – re-frain, and the pronunciation of refrain is rɪˈfreɪn.

There are also many different languages that use words that mean refrain. These words may look different from the word refrain because different languages have different roots and origins, or they may look and sound similar if they have the same root or language of origin as refrain. This list of translations of refrain is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Mandarin: 副歌‎ (fùgē)
  •  Ido: refreno‎
  •  Portuguese: refrão‎ (masc.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: sèist‎ (masc.) (f)
  •  Slovene: refren‎ (masc.)
  •  Tagalog: pabini‎, pabinian‎
  •  Walloon: resploe‎ (masc.), rifrin‎ (masc.)
  •  Japanese: リフレーン‎ (rifurēn)
  •  French: refrain‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: kertosäe‎
  •  Irish: loinneog‎ (fem.)
  •  Polish: refren‎ (masc.)
  •  Danish: refræn‎ (neut.)
  •  Hungarian: refrén‎
  •  Italian: ritornello‎ (masc.)
  •  German: Refrain‎ (masc.)
  •  Czech: refrén‎ (masc.)
  •  Norman: èrfrain‎ (masc.) (Jersey)
  •  Esperanto: refreno‎
  •  Spanish: estribillo‎
  •  Norwegian: refreng‎
  •  Russian: припе́в‎ (masc.), рефре́н‎ (masc.)
  •  Erzya: заводкс‎
  •  Dutch: refrein‎
  •  Greek: επωδός‎ (fem.)

What are synonyms and antonyms of refrain?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word refrain. These are considered synonyms, which are words that have the same definition as a given word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you want to avoid repeating yourself and if you want to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word refrain is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  interrupt
  •  sit out
  •  eschew
  •  keep
  •  inhibit
  •  give up
  •  abstain
  •  halt
  •  stop
  •  curb
  •  leave off
  •  check
  •  take the pledge
  •  quit
  •  arrest
  •  desist
  •  not do
  •  forbear
  •  forgo
  •  pass
  •  take the cure
  •  pass up
  •  resist
  •  be temperate
  •  renounce
  •  go on the wagon
  •  restrain
  •  cease
  •  avoid
  •  withhold

There are also numerous different words and phrases that mean the opposite of the word refrain. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another quick and easy way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms of refrain is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  stay
  •  carry on
  •  reach
  •  survive
  •  ride
  •  stick to
  •  continue
  •  live on
  •  linger
  •  keep at
  •  press on
  •  go on
  •  persevere
  •  uphold
  •  keep the ball rolling
  •  last
  •  rest
  •  outlive
  •  keep on truckin’
  •  persist in
  •  forge ahead
  •  persist
  •  get on with it
  •  stay on
  •  endure
  •  hang in
  •  keep on
  •  extend
  •  loiter
  •  make headway
  •  stick at
  •  run on
  •  move ahead
  •  pursue
  •  push on
  •  keep up
  •  stand
  •  promote
  •  abide
  •  prolong
  •  lengthen
  •  maintain
  •  remain
  •  sustain
  •  progress
  •  outlast
  •  never cease
  •  advance
  •  draw out
  •  project
  •  carry forward
  •  perdure

How can refrain be used in a sentence?

The word refrain can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions. You can also try making flashcards or quizzes to help remember the definitions and test your knowledge. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a few examples of refrain to get you started.

The soloist became confused as to what part of a song they were on since they were singing in intervals, and she completely botched the lyrics of the chorus of a song when she didn’t realize they were coming up on the refrain. The group of singers laughed at her. 

He tried to bridle himself in and refrain from having a taste of the dessert, but he couldn’t resist. 

She refrained from using her mobile device when she was trying to do homework, but the constant vibrating was distracting. 

The Princeton University poet was trying to get the rhythm right for the refrain at the end of a stanza. It felt so easy when songwriters did it for the choruses of ballads and popular music, but she was having serious poet’s block writing these separate stanzas in poetic form rather than musical form.

What is the origin of the word refrain?

The verb refrain has been used since mid-14c and the noun has been used since the late c14. The verb was originally the Middle English refreinen and the noun was the Middle English refreine or Middle English refrein. The verb comes from the Old French refraigner, Old French refrener, and Old French refreiner, verbs that means to restrain or repress. These 12c words are now the Modern French réfréner. The noun comes from the Old French refrain, a 13c word meaning chorus. This was an alteration of refrait, which was a derivative of refraindre, the past participle of refraindre. The Old French refraindre means to repeat. These bome from the Vulgar Latin refrangere which was an alteration of Latin refringere, and Latin refrenare/Latin refrēnāre and frēnāre. These are related to the Latin frangere, frendere and frenum/frēnum. Related words include refraction (n.), refrained, refraining, and refrainment. These are of Indo-European roots, namely ghrendh.

Overall, the word refrain means either the divisions of a poetic composition at the end of each stanza or the burden of a song or piece of music, or to avoid or stop oneself from doing something. This word can be used as a noun or verb.


  1. refrain: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. REFRAIN Synonyms: 54 Synonyms & Antonyms for REFRAIN | Thesaurus 
  3. CONTINUE Synonyms: 98 Synonyms & Antonyms for CONTINUE | Thesaurus 
  4. refrain | Origin and meaning of refrain | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Refrain | Definition of Refrain | Merriam-Webster