verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)


Origin of strain

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 formsstrain·ing·ly, adverbstrain·less, adjectivestrain·less·ly, adverb

Synonyms for strain

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.




the body of descendants of a common ancestor, as a family or stock.
any of the different lines of ancestry united in a family or an individual.
a group of plants distinguished from other plants of the variety to which it belongs by some intrinsic quality, such as a tendency to yield heavily; breed.
an artificial variety of a species of domestic animal or cultivated plant.
a variety, especially of microorganisms.
ancestry or descent.
hereditary or natural character, tendency, or trait: a strain of insanity in a family.
a streak or trace.
a kind or sort.
Obsolete. procreation.

Origin of strain

before 950; Middle English strene, Old English strēon lineage, stock, tribe; akin to strīenan to beget

Synonyms for strain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for strain

Contemporary Examples of strain

Historical Examples of strain

British Dictionary definitions for strain




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 overexertionhe strained himself
to deform or be deformed as a result of a stress
(intr) 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
(tr) to draw off or remove (one part of a substance or mixture from another) by or as if by filtering
(tr) to clasp tightly; hug
(tr) obsolete to force or constrain
(intr 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 plural) 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 for strain

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 for strain

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

Word Origin and History for strain

"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

Science definitions for strain



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.
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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.