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From Middle English straglen, of uncertain origin.


straggle (third-person singular simple present straggles, present participle straggling, simple past and past participle straggled)

  1. To stray from the road, course or line of march.
    He straggled away from the crowd and went off on his own.
  2. To wander about; ramble.
    • L'Estrange
      The wolf spied out a straggling kid.
  3. To spread at irregular intervals.
    • 1907, Harold Bindloss, chapter 7, in The Dust of Conflict[1]:
      Then there was no more cover, for they straggled out, not in ranks but clusters, from among orange trees and tall, flowering shrubs [] .
  4. To escape or stretch beyond proper limits, as the branches of a plant; to spread widely apart; to shoot too far or widely in growth.
    • Mortimer
      Trim off the small, superfluous branches on each side of the hedge that straggle too far out.
  5. To be dispersed or separated; to occur at intervals.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      straggling pistol shots
    • Sir Walter Raleigh
      They came between Scylla and Charybdis and the straggling rocks.

Derived terms[edit]



straggle (plural straggles)

  1. An irregular, spread-out group.
    • 1951, Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny, Doubleday & Company, Inc., page 38:
      Twenty-five hundred hands snapped at a slant to the hats. The admiral strolled onto the field, smoking, followed by a straggle of officers, walking carelessly to symbolize the privileges of rank, but straggling at distances from the admiral strictly regulated by the number of sleeve stripes on each stragger.
    • 2005, Joe Bennett, A Land of Two Halves, page 43:
      At Milton the road is blocked by yet another Anzac parade, a straggle of people raw-faced in the cold.
    • 2008, Denis Montgomery, Crest of a Wave, page 205:
      Apart from these few rail stations with a duka and a straggle of a few houses there was no town or village. That part of Kenya, mostly acacia bush and, further on, grassy plains with bush along the course of the few rivers, was empty of humanity []
  2. An outlier; something that has strayed beyond the normal limits.