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[dih-stend] /dɪˈstɛnd/
verb (used with or without object)
to expand by stretching, as something hollow or elastic:
Habitual overeating had distended his stomach.
to spread in all directions; expand; swell:
The sea distended about them.
Origin of distend
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English (< Anglo-French destendre) < Latin distendere, equivalent to dis- dis-1 + tendere to stretch
Related forms
distender, noun
overdistend, verb
undistend, verb (used with object)
1. See expand. 1, 2. enlarge, bloat.
1, 2. shrink, contract. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for distend
Historical Examples
  • All the blood in him seemed to rush to his head and distend the veins there.

    The Free Range Francis William Sullivan
  • To distend is to stretch apart or spread in all directions; to dilate, to expand.

    Orthography Elmer W. Cavins
  • It would be good practice to distend the sac after discharge of pus by injecting into it a solution of carbolic acid.

  • It does not distend the stomach properly, nor call into use its ruminating habits.

    Domestic Animals Richard L. Allen
  • His stomach, distend it as he will—it is very small—resents being distended.

    Tea-Table Talk Jerome K. Jerome
  • Why do connoisseurs of wines close their mouths and distend their chins for a few seconds, when tasting wines?

    The Reason Why Anonymous
  • It may discharge into the epiglotto-pharyngeal fold, and thence reach and distend the epiglottis.

  • The chivalrous sentiments of war fire his eye, distend his breast, and give erectness to his figure.

    Life of Schamyl John Milton Mackie
  • Come to my help, and with thy stiffening breath Clog their strain'd helms, distend their limbs indeath.

    The Columbiad Joel Barlow
  • Uttering no sound, he seemed to distend, as if he had suddenly become a pneumatic boy under dangerous pressure.

    Penrod and Sam Booth Tarkington
British Dictionary definitions for distend


to expand or be expanded by or as if by pressure from within; swell; inflate
(transitive) to stretch out or extend
(transitive) to magnify in importance; exaggerate
Derived Forms
distender, noun
distensible, adjective
distensibility, noun
distension, distention, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin distendere, from dis-1 + tendere to stretch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for distend

c.1400, from Latin distendere "to swell or stretch out, extend," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + tendere "to stretch" (see tenet). Related: Distended; distending.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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distend in Medicine

distend di·stend (dĭ-stěnd')
v. dis·tend·ed, dis·tend·ing, dis·tends
To swell out or expand or cause to swell out or expand from or as if from internal pressure.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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