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

1375–1425; late Middle English (< Anglo-French destendre) < Latin distendere, equivalent to dis- dis-1 + tendere to stretch
Related formsdis·tend·er, nouno·ver·dis·tend, verbun·dis·tend, verb (used with object)

Synonyms for distend

1. See expand. 1, 2. enlarge, bloat.

Antonyms for distend

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for distend

Historical Examples of distend

  • You will find it impossible to breathe, for the muscles of your chest will distend the ribs.

    The Best Made Plans

    Everett B. Cole

  • 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.


    Elmer W. Cavins

  • Furl—To roll up and make sails fast so that the wind cannot distend them.

    On Yacht Sailing

    Thomas Fleming Day

  • He could talk now, could distend his nerves in the warm air of her sympathy.


    Edith Wharton

British Dictionary definitions for distend



to expand or be expanded by or as if by pressure from within; swell; inflate
(tr) to stretch out or extend
(tr) to magnify in importance; exaggerate
Derived Formsdistender, noundistensible, adjectivedistensibility, noundistension or distention, noun

Word Origin for distend

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

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

distend in Medicine




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.