1 [ri-freyn]
verb (used without object)
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)
Archaic. to curb.

1300–50; Middle English refreinen < Old French refrener < Latin refrēnāre to bridle, equivalent to re- re- + frēn(um) bridle + -āre infinitive suffix

refrainer, noun
refrainment, noun
unrefrained, adjective
unrefraining, adjective

refrain, restrain.

1. forbear, desist. Unabridged


2 [ri-freyn]
a phrase or verse recurring at intervals in a song or poem, especially at the end of each stanza; chorus.
a musical setting for the refrain of a poem.
any melody.
the principal, recurrent section of a rondo.

1325–75; Middle English refreyne < Old French refrain, derivative of refraindre to break sequence < Vulgar Latin *refrangere, for Latin refringere to refract Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
refrain1 (rɪˈfreɪn)
vb (usually foll by from)
to abstain (from action); forbear
[C14: from Latin refrēnāre to check with a bridle, from re- + frēnum a bridle]

refrain2 (rɪˈfreɪn)
1.  a regularly recurring melody, such as the chorus of a song
2.  a much repeated saying or idea
[C14: via Old French, ultimately from Latin refringere to break into pieces]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, from O.Fr. refraigner "restrain, repress" (12c.), from L. refrenare "bridle, hold in with a bit," from re- "back" + frenare "restrain, furnish with a bridle," from frenum "a bridle."

late 14c., from O.Fr. refrain, alteration of refrait, properly pp. of refraindre "repeat," also "break off," from Prov. refranhar "singing of birds, refrain," from V.L. *refrangere "break off," alteration of L. refringere (see refraction). The notion is of something that
causes a song to "break off" then resume. Not common before 19c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

refrain definition

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

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


a phrase, line, or group of lines repeated at intervals throughout a poem, generally at the end of the stanza. Refrains are found in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead and are common in primitive tribal chants. They appear in literature as varied as ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Latin verse, popular ballads, and Renaissance and Romantic lyrics. Three common refrains are the chorus, recited by more than one person; the burden, in which a whole stanza is repeated; and the repetend, in which the words are repeated erratically throughout the poem. A refrain may be an exact repetition, or it may exhibit slight variations in meaning or form as in the following excerpt from "Jesse James": Jesse had a wife to mourn him all her life,The children they are brave.'Twas a dirty little coward shotMister Howard,And laid Jesse James in his grave.. . . . . . . .It was Robert Ford, the dirty little coward,I wonder how he does feel,For he ate of Jesse's bread and he slept inJesse's bed,Then he laid Jesse James in his grave.(Anonymous)

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The oft-repeated refrain that more ice makes the drink cooler is an error.
He has heard the refrain that earthquakes are chaotic and unpredictable.
The notion that, in these eventful times, a lot can change in a year was a common refrain among fans.
Maybe the deafening refrain of vuvuzela soccer horns can summon up more goalmouth incident and dramatic moments.
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