Definition of contain in English:



[with object]
  • 1Have or hold (someone or something) within.

    ‘the cigarettes were thought to contain cannabis’
    • ‘The coils are contained within a steel cylinder fitted with fins, which would float just below the surface of the water, anchored to the sea-bed by chains, and rotated by the force of the tides.’
    • ‘Eventually, the new Works Minister and his officials will win hearts and minds in sceptical Caparo only if the flood waters are actually contained within the concrete cylinders.’
    • ‘Mitochondria are minute structures vital to energy production within a cell that contain genes that are located outside a cell's nucleus, home to most of the cell's genes.’
    • ‘Imagine how many more fascinating tales are contained within the walls of the old-age institutions!’
    • ‘Bubbles containing microcosms within the larger painting often complete the verses.’
    • ‘Morris dancing is obviously a very old practice and it contains clues within it as to its origins.’
    • ‘An on-site train wash has been redesigned to be enclosed, elongated and sound-insulated to ensure noise is contained within the facility.’
    • ‘So all of our information is contained within our IT systems.’
    • ‘Read Cole's post, which is long and contains links within it, carefully; he explains the most effective way to protest and why.’
    • ‘Can I just follow this logic through: that if a method of briefing of the media is not contained within the organisation's media strategy, it should not be done.’
    • ‘It is contained within my family, who are training the next person who shall uphold the custom.’
    • ‘Just as the historical sights are largely contained within a two-square-mile section, the cultural venues are mostly near each other.’
    • ‘The sacred nature of these figures was thus established by an explanatory narrative that did not succeed in containing their meaning within a completely familiar context.’
    • ‘If you've ever wondered how the Russian aristocracy managed to bring a revolution upon themselves, some of the answers are indeed contained within the walls of the Hermitage.’
    • ‘My house is not contained within an invisible force field.’
    • ‘First, the rendered moment is contained within a larger narrative frame, one predicated on the conventions of reproduction.’
    • ‘The sensor and wiring is contained within the cane and the vibration inside the handle is achieved by the same device as a vibrating mobile phone battery.’
    • ‘One local media report recently said that the baked sweet potatoes sold along the road might have been cooked in barrels that once contained chemicals, persuading people not to eat them.’
    • ‘The imposing St. Boniface Cathedral, destroyed by fire in 1968 but containing a rebuilt church within the old walls, stands on the east shore of the Red.’
    • ‘All human life is contained within the covers of the hardback, coffee table book which runs to 227 pages and contains a wonderful collection of musings and anecdotes.’
    hold, have capacity for, have room for, have seating for, have space for, carry, accommodate, seat
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    1. 1.1 Be made up of (a number of things)
      ‘documents containing both text and simple graphics can be created’
      • ‘This is because the remaining code still contains a vast number of characteristic features of the iris.’
      • ‘It contains a large number of mostly amoeboid organisms, including such significant groups as the radiolarians and foraminiferans.’
      • ‘The film contains a number of innovations, including what some believe to be the first use of a voice-over to denote an internal monologue.’
      • ‘Each part has a brief introduction and contains a number of photographs and extracts from documents, roughly divided under more or less cryptic chapter headings.’
      • ‘This scheme contains a number of amendments, including the amalgamation of some smaller polling districts and their polling stations.’
      • ‘The majority of natural lipids contain an even number of carbon atoms.’
      • ‘The lengthy letter contained a number of criticisms, including describing his article as ‘garbled rubbish’.’
      • ‘The homepage article contains a number of photographs, including one that gives an animated view of the skeletal and tissue structures of the hand.’
      • ‘It contains a number of anti-cancer herbs.’
      • ‘Our sweat contains a number of different substances, including pheromones that can have powerful affects on the hormone systems of others who are physically close to us.’
      • ‘Well, it was right in the sense that it was a numerical string that contained the numbers 7 and 9, but otherwise it was useless.’
      • ‘It has since been discovered that these materials were not suitable for use, containing a number of contaminants, including carcinogenic chemicals.’
      • ‘Each of these is a long file containing a great number of texts; the texts are found in the order I write them.’
      • ‘The binding interface consists mainly of polar and charged residues, and contains a number of buried water molecules.’
      • ‘They stole a handbag containing a number of items, including credit cards and £100 in cash.’
      • ‘The entire text contains excellent figures and illustrations that help explain difficult concepts and interactions.’
      • ‘It contained nearly 1000 text documents dating back to 1997.’
      • ‘The product that's currently shipping appears to be full-featured and operational, but it contains a number of errors in the documentation that suggest that this too was rushed.’
      • ‘It contained a number of strange implements, including a few needles, some odd gadgets, and vials of multi-colored liquids.’
      • ‘As the game progresses, a given cup can contain any number of beans, but the total number remains 48.’
      include, comprise, take in, incorporate, involve, encompass, embrace, embody
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    2. 1.2 (of a number) be divisible by (a factor) without a remainder.
      ‘since F contains the factor Q it disappears from both sides of the equation’
      • ‘Let F u (u >) be the smallest Fibonacci number containing the prime p.’
      • ‘Because some shape ratios contain similar measurement variables, a direct algorithmic relationship may exist between them.’
      • ‘Such sets (of unique items) could now contain consecutive Fibonacci numbers.’
      • ‘This fraction contains both the ER and the Golgi complex, because these compartments have densities between 1.13 and 1.17 in tobacco leaf cells.’
  • 2Control or restrain (oneself or a feeling)

    ‘he must contain his hatred’
    • ‘She shouted at him, barely containing herself.’
    • ‘Shelley hopped from one foot to the other, barely able to contain herself.’
    • ‘When he said that, I could barely contain myself.’
    • ‘As she approached, Adrian could barely contain himself from running down the aisle and kissing Julie right there.’
    • ‘She was so excited, she could barely contain herself.’
    • ‘Derek rode alongside the carriage, barely able to contain himself.’
    • ‘When I first saw this performed I could barely contain myself.’
    • ‘I'm so proud in so many ways right now I can barely contain myself.’
    • ‘She was unable to contain her happiness.’
    • ‘She backed out of the office barely able to contain herself from skipping and jumping about like some demented grasshopper.’
    • ‘It wasn't that it grossed him out terribly, but he had heard so many mistletoe comments over the past week that he could barely contain himself.’
    • ‘She could barely contain herself from squealing.’
    • ‘I was extremely excited, to the point that I could barely contain myself.’
    • ‘One of our editorial assistants, a young woman just a year or two out of college, was so excited she could barely contain herself.’
    • ‘She could not contain herself or her affection.’
    • ‘They all seemed to be so angry they could barely contain themselves.’
    • ‘But this time, my brother couldn't contain his sadness anymore.’
    • ‘Do I think I could contain myself and restrain myself with the proper amount of professional decorum?’
    • ‘My sister and I could barely contain ourselves, we thought it was so funny and ingenious.’
    • ‘She jumped up and down, hardly able to contain herself.’
    restrain, curb, rein in, suppress, repress, stifle, subdue, quell, limit, swallow, bottle up, keep under control, keep back, hold in, keep in check
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    1. 2.1 Prevent (a severe problem) from spreading or intensifying.
      ‘the government has already taken steps to contain the disease’
      • ‘He recommends companies adopt an anti-hoax policy to help contain the problem.’
      • ‘Broadly speaking, both they had little trouble in containing this undermanned attack.’
      • ‘Firemen then were able to contain that blaze, preventing it from spreading to neighbouring businesses.’
      • ‘The Government has already initiated an action plan to prevent and contain the spread of HIV / AIDS.’
      • ‘Nobody would deny that dangerous rogue states have to be contained to prevent them from becoming dangers not just to themselves but also to their neighbours.’
      • ‘The Overland Park Police and Fire departments responded quickly and the fire, which spread to two other cars, was contained.’
      • ‘It stays in place because we pursue a policy of attempting to contain his evil.’
      • ‘Framing this problem in terms of a romantic comedy, however, will keep the issues carefully contained, thus preventing any undue outpourings of grief or rage.’
      • ‘The fire, which was quickly extinguished, was basically contained in one area although it had spread through the ceiling into an adjacent room.’
      • ‘The challenge for them, therefore, has been to contain diversity and prevent conflict, while accepting change.’
      • ‘All they can expect to do is to keep the fire contained and from spreading to other buildings.’
      • ‘Six of the blazes were considered to be spreading and not yet contained.’
      • ‘Throughout the meeting, delegates stressed the need for not only containing the problem of terrorism but also preventing the situation from escalating.’
      • ‘However, the scientists interviewed hoped that, by understanding past outbreaks, future epidemics might be prevented or contained.’
      • ‘The Minister for Agriculture has again warned of the dangers of complacency creeping into the efforts to contain and prevent further outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.’
      • ‘At every step when the problem could have been contained, it was not.’
      • ‘The pain of the new fuel policy can be contained if the government fully implements its package of fiscal incentives and reform measures introduced on Saturday.’
      • ‘It is important to carry out inspections on eateries and fruit juice outlets and intensify measures to contain the spread of such diseases.’
      • ‘The Scottish farms were being kept under close observation by vets who have spearheaded the monitoring operation to contain the rapidly spreading disease.’
      • ‘Hospital bosses believe the bacteria's spread has been contained as a result of this and other emergency measures, as no new cases have been reported for more than a week.’


Middle English: from Old French contenir, from Latin continere, from con- ‘altogether’ + tenere ‘to hold’.