tr.v. con·tained, con·tain·ing, con·tains
a. To have within; hold: a bin that contains rice.
b. To be capable of holding: These barrels contain 50 gallons.
2. To have as a component or constituent part; include: Does the soup contain meat? The poem contains many famous lines.
a. To hold or keep within limits; restrain: I could hardly contain my curiosity.
b. To halt the spread or development of; check: Science sought an effective method of containing the disease.
4. To check the expansion or influence of (a hostile power or ideology) by containment.
5. Mathematics To be exactly divisible by.
[Middle English conteinen, from Old French contenir, from Latin continēre : com-, com- + tenēre, to hold; see ten- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: contain, hold1, accommodate
These verbs mean to have or be able to have within. Contain means to have within or have as a part or constituent: The box contained emergency medical supplies. The book contains some amusing passages.
Hold stresses capacity for containing: The gas tank holds 15 gallons when full.
Accommodate refers to capacity for holding comfortably: The restaurant accommodates 50 customers.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.