December 23, 2012
refrain (noun)
\rih-FRAYN\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a regularly repeated phrase or verse of a poem or song : chorus
How do you use it?
The soloist finished as the choir began the refrain.
Are you a word wiz?

What kinds of musical refrains were being sung when the noun "refrain" came into English?

If you chose A, you've hit the right note! The noun "refrain" came into English in the 14th century, around the same time that wandering western-European musicians called "troubadours" were singing love songs. Appropriately, the noun "refrain" comes into English from Medieval French. The French got it from a Latin verb that means "to break up." How did a verb meaning "to break up" give us a noun that refers to music? It's because the refrain, or chorus, "breaks up" the verses. There is also a verb "refrain," meaning "to curb or stop," but it comes from a different Latin root and is unrelated to the noun "refrain."
Archive RSS Feed