verb (used with object)

to overstrain or wrench (the ligaments of an ankle, wrist, or other joint) so as to injure without fracture or dislocation.


a violent straining or wrenching of the parts around a joint, without dislocation.
the condition of being sprained.

Origin of sprain

First recorded in 1595–1605; origin uncertain
Related formsun·sprained, adjective

Synonyms for sprain

1. twist. See strain1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for sprain

strain, twist, turn, wrench, tear, pull

Examples from the Web for sprain

Historical Examples of sprain

  • I cried, as I pressed her to my breast, "it is nothing; only a sprain."

    The Memoires of Casanova, Complete

    Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

  • The injury to Justin's hand proved to be one of strain and sprain.

    Glory of Youth

    Temple Bailey

  • If I trained for a race, I was sure to sprain my ankle on the day when I was to run.

    The Upper Berth

    Francis Marion Crawford

  • They watched him with some curiosity as he treated the sprain and studied the pulse.

  • It couldn't even have been a sprain, judging by the way he was standing there.

    Ten From Infinity

    Paul W. Fairman

British Dictionary definitions for sprain



(tr) to injure (a joint) by a sudden twisting or wrenching of its ligaments


the resulting injury to such a joint, characterized by swelling and temporary disability

Word Origin for sprain

C17: of uncertain 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 sprain

c.1600, of uncertain origin. The verb is attested from 1620s. A connection has been suggested to Middle French espraindre "to press out," from Latin exprimere, but the sense evolution is difficult.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sprain in Medicine




An injury to a ligament when the joint is carried through a range of motion greater than its normal range without dislocation or fracture.


To cause a sprain to a joint or ligament.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.