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See more synonyms for lean on Thesaurus.com
adjective, lean·er, lean·est.
  1. (of persons or animals) without much flesh or fat; not plump or fat; thin: lean cattle.
  2. (of edible meat) containing little or no fat.
  3. lacking in richness, fullness, quantity, etc.; poor: a lean diet; lean years.
  4. spare; economical: a lean prose style.
  5. Automotive. (of a mixture in a fuel system) having a relatively low ratio of fuel to air (contrasted with rich).
  6. (of paint) having more pigment than oil.Compare fat(def 12).
  7. Nautical. (of a bow) having fine lines; sharp.
  8. Metallurgy. (of ore) having a low mineral content; low-grade.
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  1. the part of flesh that consists of muscle rather than fat.
  2. the lean part of anything.
  3. Typesetting. matter that is difficult to set because of complexity or intermixed fonts.Compare fat(def 23).
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Origin of lean2

before 1000; Middle English lene, Old English hlǣne
Related formslean·ly, adverblean·ness, noun


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
1. skinny, lank, lanky. See thin. 3. sparse, barren, unfruitful, jejune.


1, 2. fat. 3. fruitful.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for leanness

Historical Examples

  • "I was thinking less of their leanness than of their smell," I returned.

    Green Mansions

    W. H. Hudson

  • His saving is like the spleen which swelleth with the leanness of all the other members.

  • But there's a verse about leanness in the soul, isn't there?

    Moor Fires

    E. H. (Emily Hilda) Young

  • What shall be said of thickness and thinness, of fatness and leanness?

  • Mohammed, however, calls it abu hadlan (father of leanness).

British Dictionary definitions for leanness


  1. Sir David. 1908–91, English film director. His films include In Which We Serve (1942), Blithe Spirit (1945), Brief Encounter (1946), Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Dr Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984)
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verb leans, leaning, leaned or leant
  1. (foll by against, on, or upon) to rest or cause to rest against a support
  2. to incline or cause to incline from a vertical position
  3. (intr; foll by to or towards) to have or express a tendency or leaning
  4. lean over backwards informal to make a special effort, esp in order to please
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  1. the condition of inclining from a vertical position
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See also lean on

Word Origin

Old English hleonian, hlinian; related to Old High German hlinēn, Latin clīnāre to incline


  1. (esp of a person or an animal) having no surplus flesh or bulk; not fat or plump
  2. not bulky or full
  3. (of meat) having little or no fat
  4. not rich, abundant, or satisfying
  5. (of a mixture of fuel and air) containing insufficient fuel and too much aira lean mixture
  6. (of printer's type) having a thin appearance
  7. (of a paint) containing relatively little oil
  8. (of an ore) not having a high mineral content
  9. (of concrete) made with a small amount of cement
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  1. the part of meat that contains little or no fat
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Derived Formsleanly, adverbleanness, noun

Word Origin

Old English hlǣne, of Germanic origin
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 leanness


Old English hlænnesse; see lean (adj.) + -ness.

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"action or state of leaning," 1776, from lean (v.).

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c.1200, from Old English hleonian "to bend, recline, lie down, rest," from Proto-Germanic *khlinen (cf. Old Saxon hlinon, Old Frisian lena, Middle Dutch lenen, Dutch leunen, Old High German hlinen, German lehnen "to lean"), from PIE root *klei- "to lean, to incline" (cf. Sanskrit srayati "leans," sritah "leaning;" Old Persian cay "to lean;" Lithuanian slyti "to slope," slieti "to lean;" Latin clinare "to lean, bend," clivus "declivity," inclinare "cause to bend," declinare "bend down, turn aside;" Greek klinein "to cause to slope, slant, incline;" Old Irish cloin "crooked, wrong;" Middle Irish cle, Welsh cledd "left," literally "slanting;" Welsh go-gledd "north," literally "left" -- for similar sense evolution, see Yemen, Benjamin, southpaw).

Meaning "to incline the body against something for support" is mid-13c. Figurative sense of "to trust for support" is from early 13c. Sense of "to lean toward mentally, to favor" is from late 14c. Related: Leaned; leaning. Colloquial lean on "put pressure on" (someone) is first recorded 1960.

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"thin, spare, with little flesh or fat," c.1200, from Old English hlæne "lean, thin," possibly from hlænan "cause to lean or bend," from Proto-Germanic *khlainijan, which would connect it to Old English hleonian (see lean (v.)). But perhaps rather, according to OED, from a PIE *qloinio- (cf. Lithuanian klynas "scrap, fragment," Lettish kleins "feeble"). Extended and figurative senses from early 14c. The noun meaning "lean animals or persons" is from c.1200, from the adjective.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper