Intermediate+ Word of the Day: bind

bind (verb, noun) /baɪnd/ LISTEN

His hands are bound.

To bind means ‘to tie or fasten something with string or rope’ or ‘to bandage a wound.’ Figuratively, often in the passive voice, we use it to mean ‘join, unite’ or ‘to be under an obligation.’ In book publishing, to bind means ‘to fasten sheets with a cover.’ As a noun, a bind is a tie that binds, whether literally or figuratively, and it also means ‘a complicated situation,’ although this meaning is now slightly dated.

Example sentences

  • The thieves bound their victims' hands and feet.
  • The nurse bound the patient's wound.
  • The couple was bound by marriage.
  • Sophie was bound by secrecy and could not reveal what she knew.
  • This printing firm specializes in binding students' theses and dissertations.
  • It's a real bind that Harry is off sick just when we need to get this project finished.

Words often used with bind

in a bind: in a difficult situation. Example: “The car breaking down puts us in a bind; we can’t afford to get it fixed, but we can’t get to work without it.”

In pop culture

“The Ties that Bind” is a Bruce Springsteen song from his 1980 album The River and it’s about the figurative sense of bind. You can listen to it and read the lyrics here:

Additional information

Bindweed is the common name for Convolvulus, a wild plant that twists and turns around other plants, or anything else in its path, binding itself to them.

binder is a common school and office supply. It usually has three rings (you can also call it a three-ringed binder) and you can organize papers in it. Did you know that in different countries people have completely different ways to organize papers? In the US we also have folders with pockets in them (also called pocket folders), which are not common in many countries.

Did you know?

Because bind means ‘to put someone under an obligation,’ it is often used in relation to legal obligations, such as someone being bound by a contract or agreement. Sometimes, when someone is convicted of a crime, they will be bound over by the judge to do something or not do something for a specified period of time. If they do not respect this, they will find themselves back in court and may be sentenced to prison or some other punishment. Example: “The rioters were bound over to keep the peace for twelve months.”

Other forms

bindable (adjective), binding (noun, adjective)

Origin

Bind dates back to before the year 1000. The Old English verb bindan, later binden in Middle English, meant ‘to tie up with bonds,’ and has also been used figuratively with this sense since it was first recorded. It also meant ‘to cover with dressings and bandages’ since Old English, and it used to mean ‘to make captive,’ as well, though this last sense disappeared, leaving only a trace in the legal uses of the verb. The meaning related to books is from around the year 1400, while the sense ‘to stick together’ dates back to the mid-17th century. Bind comes from the Proto-Germanic bindan, and can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root bhendh-. It is related to the Old Saxon bindan, the Old Norse and Old Frisian binda, the Old High German binten, the German binden and the Gothic bindan, as well as the English word bend. The noun comes from the verb, and (meaning ‘something that binds’), dates back to around the same time. The figurative meaning, ‘a difficult situation,’ is from the mid-19th century.

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