See more synonyms for grain on
  1. a small, hard seed, especially the seed of a food plant such as wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice, or millet.
  2. the gathered seed of food plants, especially of cereal plants.
  3. such plants collectively.
  4. any small, hard particle, as of sand, gold, pepper, or gunpowder.
  5. the smallest unit of weight in most systems, originally determined by the weight of a plump grain of wheat. In the U.S. and British systems, as in avoirdupois, troy, and apothecaries' weights, the grain is identical. In an avoirdupois ounce there are 437.5 grains; in the troy and apothecaries' ounces there are 480 grains (one grain equals 0.0648 gram).
  6. the smallest possible amount of anything: a grain of truth.
  7. the arrangement or direction of fibers in wood, or the pattern resulting from this.
  8. the direction in which the fibers of a piece of dressed wood, as a board, rise to the surface: You should work with or across the grain, but never against.
  9. the side of leather from which the hair has been removed.
  10. a stamped pattern that imitates the natural grain of leather: used either on leather to simulate a different type of natural leather, or on coated cloth.
  11. Textiles.
    1. the fibers or yarn in a piece of fabric as differentiated from the fabric itself.
    2. the direction of threads in a woven fabric in relation to the selvage.
  12. the lamination or cleavage of stone, coal, etc.
  13. Metallurgy. any of the individual crystalline particles forming a metal.
  14. Jewelry. a unit of weight equal to 50 milligrams or ¼ carat, used for pearls and sometimes for diamonds.
  15. the size of constituent particles of any substance; texture: sugar of fine grain.
  16. a granular texture or appearance: a stone of coarse grain.
  17. a state of crystallization: boiled to the grain.
  18. temper or natural character: two brothers of similar grain.
  19. Rocketry. a unit of solid propellant.
  20. Obsolete. color or hue.
verb (used with object)
  1. to form into grains; granulate.
  2. to give a granular appearance to.
  3. to paint in imitation of the grain of wood, stone, etc.: metal doors grained to resemble oak.
  4. to feed grain to (an animal).
  5. Tanning.
    1. to remove the hair from (skins).
    2. to soften and raise the grain of (leather).
  1. against the/one's grain, in opposition to one's temper, inclination, or character: Haggling always went against her grain.
  2. with a grain of salt. salt1(def 24).

Origin of grain

1250–1300; Middle English grain, grein < Old French grain < Latin grānum seed, grain; see corn1
Related formsgrain·er, noungrain·less, adjectivemul·ti·grain, noun, adjectivenon·grain, nounsu·per·grain, nounun·der·grain·ing, noun

Synonyms for grain

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for against the grain


  1. the small hard seedlike fruit of a grass, esp a cereal plant
  2. a mass of such fruits, esp when gathered for food
  3. the plants, collectively, from which such fruits are harvested
  4. a small hard particlea grain of sand
    1. the general direction or arrangement of the fibrous elements in paper or woodto saw across the grain
    2. the pattern or texture of wood resulting from such an arrangementthe attractive grain of the table
  5. the relative size of the particles of a substancesugar of fine grain
    1. the granular texture of a rock, mineral, etc
    2. the appearance of a rock, mineral, etc, determined by the size and arrangement of its constituents
    1. the outer (hair-side) layer of a hide or skin from which the hair or wool has been removed
    2. the pattern on the outer surface of such a hide or skin
  6. a surface artificially imitating the grain of wood, leather, stone, etc; graining
  7. the smallest unit of weight in the avoirdupois, Troy, and apothecaries' systems, based on the average weight of a grain of wheat: in the avoirdupois system it equals 1/7000 of a pound, and in the Troy and apothecaries' systems it equals 1/5760 of a pound. 1 grain is equal to 0.0648 gramAbbreviation: gr
  8. Also called: metric grain a metric unit of weight used for pearls or diamonds, equal to 50 milligrams or one quarter of a carat
  9. the threads or direction of threads in a woven fabric
  10. photog any of a large number of particles in a photographic emulsion, the size of which limit the extent to which an image can be enlarged without serious loss of definition
  11. television a granular effect in a television picture caused by electrical noise
  12. cleavage lines in crystalline material, parallel to growth planes
  13. chem any of a large number of small crystals forming a polycrystalline solid, each having a regular array of atoms that differs in orientation from that of the surrounding crystallites
  14. a state of crystallizationto boil syrup to the grain
  15. a very small amounta grain of truth
  16. natural disposition, inclination, or character (esp in the phrase go against the grain)
  17. astronautics a homogenous mass of solid propellant in a form designed to give the required combustion characteristics for a particular rocket
  18. (not in technical usage) kermes or a red dye made from this insect
  19. dyeing an obsolete word for colour
  20. with a grain of salt or with a pinch of salt without wholly believing: sceptically
verb (mainly tr)
  1. (also intr) to form grains or cause to form into grains; granulate; crystallize
  2. to give a granular or roughened appearance or texture to
  3. to paint, stain, etc, in imitation of the grain of wood or leather
    1. to remove the hair or wool from (a hide or skin) before tanning
    2. to raise the grain pattern on (leather)
Derived Formsgrainer, noungrainless, adjective

Word Origin for grain

C13: from Old French, from Latin grānum
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

Word Origin and History for against the grain



early 13c., "scarlet dye made from insects" (late 12c. in surnames), from Old French grain (12c.) "seed, grain, particle, berry, scarlet dye" (see kermes for last sense), from Latin granum "seed, a grain, small kernel" (see corn (n.1)).

As a collective singular meaning "seed of wheat and allied grasses used as food," it is attested from early 14c. Extended from c.1300 to other objects (e.g. salt, sand). As a unit of weight, from 1540s. Used of wood (1560s), from the arrangement of fibers, which resemble seeds. Hence, against the grain (1650), a metaphor from carpentry: cutting across the fibers of the wood is more difficult than cutting along them.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

against the grain in Medicine


  1. A small, dry, one-seeded fruit of a cereal grass, having the fruit and the seed walls united.
  2. The fruits of cereal grasses especially after having been harvested, considered as a group.
  3. A relatively small discrete particulate or crystalline mass.
  4. A unit of weight in the US Customary System, an avoirdupois unit equal to 0.002286 ounce (0.065 gram).
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

against the grain in Science


  1. See caryopsis.
  2. A small particle of something, such as salt, pollen, or sand.
  3. A unit of weight in the US Customary System, equal to 21000 of an ounce (0.07 gram). See Table at measurement.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with against the grain

against the grain

Opposed to one's inclination or preference, as in We followed the new supervisor's advice, though it went against the grain. This metaphor refers to the natural direction of the fibers in a piece of wood, called its grain; when sawed obliquely, or “against the grain,” the wood will tend to splinter. [c. 1600] For a synonym, see rub the wrong way.


see against the grain; with a grain of salt.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.