from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To hold oneself back; forbear: refrained from swearing.
  • transitive v. Archaic To restrain or hold back; curb.
  • n. A phrase, verse, or group of verses repeated at intervals throughout a song or poem, especially at the end of each stanza.
  • n. Music for the refrain of a poem.
  • n. A song or melody.
  • n. A repeated utterance or theme.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The chorus or burden of a song repeated at the end of each verse or stanza.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The burden of a song; a phrase or verse which recurs at the end of each of the separate stanzas or divisions of a poetic composition.
  • intransitive v. To keep one's self from action or interference; to hold aloof; to forbear; to abstain.
  • transitive v. To hold back; to restrain; to keep within prescribed bounds; to curb; to govern.
  • transitive v. To abstain from.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To hold baek; restrain; curb; keep from action.
  • To forbear; abstain from; quit.
  • To forbear; abstain; keep one's self from action or interference.
  • n. A burden or chorus recurring at regular intervals in the course of a song or ballad, usually at the end of each stanza.
  • n. The musical phrase or figure to which the burden of a song is set. It has the same relation to the main part of the tune that the burden has to the main text of the song.
  • n. An after-taste or -odor; that impression which lingers on the sense: as, the refrain of a Cologne water, of a perfume, of a wine.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the part of a song where a soloist is joined by a group of singers
  • v. resist doing something
  • v. choose not to consume


Middle English refreinen, from Old French refrener, to restrain, from Latin refrēnāre : re-, re- + frēnāre, to restrain (from frēnum, bridle, from frendere, to grind; see ghrendh- in Indo-European roots).
Middle English refrein, from Old French refrain, alteration of refrait, past participle of refraindre, to break off, repeat, from Vulgar Latin *refrangere, to break off, alteration of Latin refringere; see refract.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From a combination of Anglo-Norman refraindre, Middle French refreindre (from Latin refrangere), and Anglo-Norman refrener, Middle French refrener (from Latin refrenare). (Wiktionary)
From French refrain, from the Old French verb refraindre ("to break off, repeat"), from Latin re- ("back, again") + frangō ("break"); compare Occitan refranhs ("a refrain"), refranher ("to repeat"). See refract and the verb refrain. (Wiktionary)



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  • Yeah, but they just sing the same things over and over again.


    October 14, 2008

  • What a lyrical country Australia must be.

    October 14, 2008

  • Refrain:
    "Children, please, if you're able,
    Do not climb upon the table!
    Children, do not make me swear!
    Put down that lamp! Get off that chair!"

    October 14, 2008

  • They're multiplying, since I saw another one yesterday in the furniture shop: 'Please refrain your children from climbing on the furniture'.

    A generation of Australian children are growing up refrained.

    October 14, 2008

  • Hehe!

    October 2, 2008

  • I think that means that you sing them off the counter.

    October 2, 2008

  • There's a handwritten notice in a supermarket around here that reads: "Please refrain your children from climbing on the counter."

    Is it a sillyism or can refrain actually be used transitively?

    October 1, 2008

  • Could you refrain from singing the refrain?

    November 25, 2007