1. In general usage, any small group of WORDS within a SENTENCE or a CLAUSE, such as ‘in general usage’, ‘small groups’, and ‘a clause’. Such a group is usually recognized as having a syntactic structure: groups like usage any and or a would not normally qualify as phrases.
2. In grammatical theory, a unit that does not have the structure of a sentence or clause, and cannot therefore be analysed in English in terms of subject, verb, and object. There are five types of phrase, named after their main word: noun phrase (a very bright light); verb phrase (may be eating); adjective phrase (extraordinarily happy); adverb phrase or adverbial phrase (quite casually); prepositional phrase (in our city). In traditional analyses, a phrase must consist of more than one word, as in the everyday use of the term, but in contemporary GRAMMARS one, two, or more words that function in the same way are all phrases. A noun phrase is therefore the subject of all three sentences ‘The work is in progress’, ‘Work is in progress’, ‘It is in progress’. A phrase may have another phrase embedded in it: the prepositional phrase for your information contains the noun phrase your information; the noun phrase a somewhat easy question contains the adjective phrase somewhat easy. A phrase may also have a clause embedded in it: the noun phrase the play that I saw last night contains the relative clause that I saw last night. In most traditional grammars, constructions that do not have a finite verb are considered phrases, so that the infinitive construction ‘To miss the party would be a pity’ and the participle construction in ‘His hobby is painting landscapes’ are phrases. In many contemporary grammars, these are regarded as clauses. In generative grammar, the term is treated even more widely: in ‘I know that they are waiting’ the verb phrase consists of everything but the subject I, since it is taken to include the complementation of the verb, in this instances a that-clause. See FIXED PHRASE.
phrase / frāz/ • n. a small group of words standing together as a conceptual unit, typically forming a component of a clause. ∎ an idiomatic or short pithy expression: his favorite phrase is “it's a pleasure.” ∎ Mus. a group of notes forming a distinct unit within a longer passage. ∎ Ballet a group of steps within a longer sequence or dance.• v. [tr.] put into a particular form of words: it's important to phrase the question correctly. ∎ divide (music) into phrases in a particular way, esp. in performance: [as n.] (phrasing) original phrasing brought out unexpected aspects of the music. PHRASES: turn of phrase a manner of expression: an awkward turn of phrase.ORIGIN: mid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘style or manner of expression’): via late Latin from Greek phrasis, from phrazein ‘declare, tell.’
So phraseology XVII. — modL. phraseologia, spurious Gr. phraseologíā.