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[streyn] /streɪn/
verb (used with object)
to draw tight or taut, especially to the utmost tension; stretch to the full:
to strain a rope.
to exert to the utmost:
to strain one's ears to catch a sound.
to impair, injure, or weaken (a muscle, tendon, etc.) by stretching or overexertion.
to cause mechanical deformation in (a body or structure) as the result of stress.
to stretch beyond the proper point or limit:
to strain the meaning of a word.
to make excessive demands upon:
to strain one's luck; to strain one's resources.
to pour (liquid containing solid matter) through a filter, sieve, or the like in order to hold back the denser solid constituents:
to strain gravy.
to draw off (clear or pure liquid) by means of a filter or sieve:
to strain the water from spinach; to strain broth.
to hold back (solid particles) from liquid matter by means of a filter or sieve:
to strain seeds from orange juice; to strain rice.
to clasp tightly in the arms, the hand, etc.:
The mother strained her child close to her breast.
Obsolete. to constrain, as to a course of action.
verb (used without object)
to pull forcibly:
a dog straining at a leash.
to stretch one's muscles, nerves, etc., to the utmost.
to make violent physical efforts; strive hard.
to resist forcefully; balk:
to strain at accepting an unpleasant fact.
to be subjected to tension or stress; suffer strain.
to filter, percolate, or ooze.
to trickle or flow:
Sap strained from the bark.
any force or pressure tending to alter shape, cause a fracture, etc.
strong muscular or physical effort.
great or excessive effort or striving after some goal, object, or effect.
an injury to a muscle, tendon, etc., due to excessive tension or use; sprain.
Mechanics, Physics. deformation of a body or structure as a result of an applied force.
condition of being strained or stretched.
a task, goal, or effect accomplished only with great effort:
Housecleaning is a real strain.
severe, trying, or fatiguing pressure or exertion; taxing onus:
the strain of hard work.
a severe demand on or test of resources, feelings, a person, etc.:
a strain on one's hospitality.
a flow or burst of language, eloquence, etc.:
the lofty strain of Cicero.
Often, strains. a passage of melody, music, or songs as rendered or heard:
the strains of the nightingale.
Music. a section of a piece of music, more or less complete in itself.
a passage or piece of poetry.
the tone, style, or spirit of an utterance, writing, etc.:
a humorous strain.
a particular degree, height, or pitch attained:
a strain of courageous enthusiasm.
Origin of strain1
1250-1300; Middle English streinen (v.) < Old French estrein-, stem of estreindre to press tightly, grip < Latin stringere to bind, tie, draw tight. See stringent
Related forms
strainingly, adverb
strainless, adjective
strainlessly, adverb
1. tighten. 3. Strain, sprain imply a wrenching, twisting, and stretching of muscles and tendons. To strain is to stretch tightly, make taut, wrench, tear, cause injury to, by long-continued or sudden and too violent effort or movement: to strain one's heart by overexertion, one's eyes by reading small print. To sprain is to strain excessively (but without dislocation) by a sudden twist or wrench, the tendons and muscles connected with a joint, especially those of the ankle or wrist: to sprain an ankle. 7. filter, sieve. 10. hug, embrace, press. 17. seep. 20. exertion. 22. wrench. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for straining
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Sidney, straining her ears, gathered that they had seen a miracle, and that the wonder was still on them.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • I wished him to go on, but he was peering into my straining eyes with anxious sympathy.

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • If not perfectly bright after straining, you may clarify it in this manner.

  • Then suddenly she was in his arms, shaking and sobbing, straining him to her.

    The Fortune Hunter Louis Joseph Vance
  • He tensed, straining his ears for any movement that might locate the hidden foe.

    Slaves of Mercury Nat Schachner
British Dictionary definitions for straining


to draw or be drawn taut; stretch tight
to exert, tax, or use (resources) to the utmost extent
to injure or damage or be injured or damaged by overexertion: he strained himself
to deform or be deformed as a result of a stress
(intransitive) to make intense or violent efforts; strive
to subject or be subjected to mental tension or stress
to pour or pass (a substance) or (of a substance) to be poured or passed through a sieve, filter, or strainer
(transitive) to draw off or remove (one part of a substance or mixture from another) by or as if by filtering
(transitive) to clasp tightly; hug
(transitive) (obsolete) to force or constrain
(intransitive) foll by at
  1. to push, pull, or work with violent exertion (upon)
  2. to strive (for)
  3. to balk or scruple (from)
the act or an instance of straining
the damage resulting from excessive exertion
an intense physical or mental effort
(music) (often pl) a theme, melody, or tune
a great demand on the emotions, resources, etc
a feeling of tension and tiredness resulting from overwork, worry, etc; stress
a particular style or recurring theme in speech or writing
(physics) the change in dimension of a body under load expressed as the ratio of the total deflection or change in dimension to the original unloaded dimension. It may be a ratio of lengths, areas, or volumes
Word Origin
C13: from Old French estreindre to press together, from Latin stringere to bind tightly


the main body of descendants from one ancestor
a group of organisms within a species or variety, distinguished by one or more minor characteristics
a variety of bacterium or fungus, esp one used for a culture
a streak; trace
(archaic) a kind, type, or sort
Word Origin
Old English strēon; related to Old High German gistriuni gain, Latin struere to construct
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 straining



"to stretch, draw tight," c.1300, from present participle stem of Old French estreindre "bind tightly, clasp, squeeze," from Latin stringere (2) "bind or draw tight," from PIE root *strenk- "tight, narrow; pull tight, twist" (cf. Lithuanian stregti "congeal;" Greek strangein "twist;" Old High German strician "mends nets;" Old English streccian "to stretch," streng "string;" German stramm, Dutch stram "stiff"). Sense of "press through a filter" is from early 14c. (implied in strainer); that of "lay undue stress on, make a forced interpretation of" is from mid-15c. Related: Strained; straining.



"line of descent," Old English strion, streon "gain, begetting," from Proto-Germanic *streun- "to pile up," from PIE root *stere- "to spread, extend, stretch out" (see structure (n.)). Applied to animal species first in c.1600.



"injury caused by straining," 1550s, from strain (v.). The meaning "passage of music" (1570s) probably developed from a verbal sense of "to tighten" the voice, originally the strings of a musical instrument (late 14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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straining in Medicine

strain 1 (strān)
v. strained, strain·ing, strains

  1. To pull, draw, or stretch tight.

  2. To stretch or exert one's muscles or nerves to the utmost.

  3. To injure or impair by overuse or overexertion; wrench.

  4. To filter, trickle, percolate, or ooze.

  5. To pass a liquid through a filtering agent such as a strainer.

  6. To draw off or remove by filtration.

  1. The act of straining.

  2. The state of being strained.

  3. Extreme or laborious effort.

  4. A great or excessive pressure, demand, or stress on one's body, mind, or resources.

  5. A wrench, twist, or other physical injury resulting from excessive tension, effort, or use.

strain 2 (strān)

  1. The collective descendants of a common ancestor; a race, stock, line, or breed.

  2. Any of the various lines of ancestry united in an individual or a family; ancestry or lineage.

  3. A group of organisms of the same species, having distinctive characteristics but not usually considered a separate breed or variety.

  4. An artificial variety of a domestic animal or cultivated plant.

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

  1. A group of organisms of the same species, sharing certain hereditary characteristics not typical of the entire species but minor enough not to warrant classification as a separate breed or variety. Resistance to specific antibiotics is a feature of certain strains of bacteria.

  2. The extent to which a body is distorted when it is subjected to a deforming force, as when under stress. The distortion can involve a change both in shape and in size. All measures of strain are dimensionless (they have no unit of measure). ◇ Axial strain is equal to the ratio between the change in length of an object and its original length. ◇ Volume strain is equal to the ratio between the change in volume of an object and its original volume. It is also called bulk strain.Shear strain is equal to the ratio between the amount by which an object is skewed and its length. Compare stress. See more at Hooke's law.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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