late 14c., "to arrange the words of (a translation) in their natural order," hence "to interpret, explain, understand the meaning of," from Late Latin construere "to relate grammatically," in classical Latin "to build up, pile together," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + struere "to pile up" (from PIE root *stere- "to spread").
Specific sense in law, "to explain or interpret for legal purposes," is from 1580s. Compare construction and construct (v.), which is a later doublet. Related: Construed; construing; construal.
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