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.


  1. a phrase or verse recurring at intervals in a song or poem, especially at the end of each stanza; chorus.
  2. Music.
    1. a musical setting for the refrain of a poem.
    2. any melody.
    3. the principal, recurrent section of a rondo.


  1. (intr usually foll by from) to abstain (from action); forbear


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

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.

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

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