verb (used without object)



Origin of stray

1250–1300; (v.) Middle English strayen, aphetic variant of astraien, estraien < Middle French estraier < Vulgar Latin *extrāvagāre to wander out of bounds (see extravagant); (noun) Middle English, in part derivative of the v., in part < Anglo-French stray, Middle French estrai, derivative of estraier
Related formsstray·er, nounun·stray·ing, adjective

Synonyms for stray

1. rove, range. 2. meander. 3. err. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stray

Contemporary Examples of stray

Historical Examples of stray

  • It is present in all his works, in stray letters and detached passages.

  • Her thoughts could not stray far from the letter and—from other things!

  • He did not propose to have his plans spoiled by these stray guests.

    The Little Colonel

    Annie Fellows Johnston

  • As much to me as if a stray, migratory mule had rambled into the wood and found me, and I him.

    Green Mansions

    W. H. Hudson

  • I am such a waif and stray everywhere, that I am liable to be drifted where any current may set.'

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for stray


verb (intr)

to wander away, as from the correct path or from a given area
to wander haphazardly
to digress from the point, lose concentration, etc
to deviate from certain moral standards


  1. a domestic animal, fowl, etc, that has wandered away from its place of keeping and is lost
  2. (as modifier)stray dogs
a lost or homeless person, esp a childwaifs and strays
an isolated or random occurrence, specimen, etc, that is out of place or outside the usual pattern


scattered, random, or haphazarda stray bullet grazed his thigh
Derived Formsstrayer, noun

Word Origin for stray

C14: from Old French estraier, from Vulgar Latin estragāre (unattested), from Latin extrā- outside + vagāri to roam; see astray, extravagant, stravaig
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 stray

c.1300, a shortening of Old French estraier "wander about," literally "go about the streets," from estree "route, highway," from Late Latin via strata "paved road" (see street). On another theory, the Old French word is from Vulgar Latin *estragare, a contraction of *estravagare, representing Latin extra vagari "to wander outside" (see extravagant). Figurative sense of "to wander from the path of rectitude" is attested from early 14c.


"domestic animal found wandering," early 13c., from Old French estraié "strayed," past participle of estraier (see stray (v.)). The adjective is first recorded c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper