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hold back - definition and synonyms


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90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.



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phrasal verb
Word Forms
present tense
I/you/we/theyhold back
he/she/itholds back
present participleholding back
past tenseheld back
past participleheld back
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  1. 1
    [transitive] to stop someone or something from moving forwards
    Ollie had to hold Tom back to prevent him retaliating.
    Her hair was held back by two clips.
  2. 2
    [transitive] to stop someone from being as successful as they should
    Her parents worried that her classmates were holding her back.
    1. a.
      to stop something from progressing or developing as it should
      Long-term water shortages can hold economic development back.
  3. 3
    [intransitive/transitive] to decide not to do or say something, or to make someone decide not to do or say something
    He held back, remembering the mistake he had made before.
  4. 4
    [transitive] to not show what you are thinking or feeling
    Joe held back his anger.
    She bit her lip to hold back the tears.
  5. 5
    [transitive] to not allow someone to have something, for example money
    They held back the final payment because they weren’t satisfied with the work.
See also main entry: hold


a course of study which is much shorter than a university course and focuses on the skills you need for a job, especially computer-related skills

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an ancient Roman system of underfloor heating, used to heat houses with hot air; from the Latin 'hypocaustum'

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