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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English streen, strene, streon, istreon ‎(race, stock, generation), from Old English strēon, ġestrēon ‎(gain, wealth), from Proto-Germanic *streuną ‎(heap, treasure, profit, gain), from Proto-Indo-European *strew- ‎(to spread, strew) (cognate with Old Saxon gistriuni, Old High German gistriuni ‎(gain, property, wealth, business), Latin strues ‎(heap)). Confused in Middle English with the related noun strend, strynd, strund, from Old English strȳnd ‎(race; stock), from strēonan, strȳnan ‎(to beget; acquire). Related also to Dutch struinen ‎(to prowl, root about, rout).


strain ‎(plural strains)

  1. (obsolete) Treasure.
  2. (obsolete) The blood-vessel in the yolk of an egg.
  3. (archaic) Race; lineage, pedigree.
    • Shakespeare
      He is of a noble strain.
    • Darwin
      With animals and plants a cross between different varieties, or between individuals of the same variety but of another strain, gives vigour and fertility to the offspring.
  4. Hereditary character, quality, or disposition.
    There is a strain of madness in her family.
    • Tillotson
      Intemperance and lust breed diseases, which, propogated, spoil the strain of nation.
  5. A tendency or disposition.
  6. (literary) Any sustained note or movement; a song; a distinct portion of an ode or other poem; also, the pervading note, or burden, of a song, poem, oration, book, etc.; theme; motive; manner; style
  7. (biology) A particular breed or race of animal, microbe etc.
    They say this year's flu virus is a particularly virulent strain.
  8. (music) A portion of music divided off by a double bar; a complete musical period or sentence; a movement, or any rounded subdivision of a movement.
  9. (rare) A kind or sort (of person etc.).
    • Dryden
      the common strain
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English straynen, streinen, streynen, from Old French estreindre (whence French étreindre ‎(to grip)), from Latin stringere ‎(to draw tight together, to tie).


strain ‎(third-person singular simple present strains, present participle straining, simple past and past participle strained)

  1. (obsolete) To hold tightly, to clasp.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.ii:
      So hauing said, her twixt her armes twaine / She straightly straynd, and colled tenderly [...].
    • Dryden
      Evander with a close embrace / Strained his departing friend.
  2. To apply a force or forces to by stretching out.
    to strain a rope; to strain the shrouds of a ship
    Relations between the United States and Guatemala traditionally have been close, although at times strained by human rights and civil/military issues.
  3. To damage by drawing, stretching, or the exertion of force.
    The gale strained the timbers of the ship.
  4. To act upon, in any way, so as to cause change of form or volume, as when bending a beam.
  5. To exert or struggle (to do something), especially to stretch (one's senses, faculties etc.) beyond what is normal or comfortable.
    Sitting in back, I strained to hear the speaker.
    • Shakespeare
      To build his fortune I will strain a little.
    • Shakespeare
      He sweats, / Strains his young nerves.
    • Dryden
      They strain their warbling throats / To welcome in the spring.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet Chapter 4
      Thus my plight was evil indeed, for I had nothing now to burn to give me light, and knew that 'twas no use setting to grout till I could see to go about it. Moreover, the darkness was of that black kind that is never found beneath the open sky, no, not even on the darkest night, but lurks in close and covered places and strains the eyes in trying to see into it.
  6. To stretch beyond its proper limit; to do violence to, in terms of intent or meaning.
    to strain the law in order to convict an accused person
    • Jonathan Swift
      There can be no other meaning in this expression, however some may pretend to strain it.
  7. (transitive) To separate solid from liquid by passing through a strainer or colander
  8. (intransitive) To percolate; to be filtered.
    water straining through a sandy soil
  9. To make uneasy or unnatural; to produce with apparent effort; to force; to constrain.
    • Denham
      He talks and plays with Fatima, but his mirth / Is forced and strained.
    • Shakespeare
      The quality of mercy is not strained.
  10. To urge with importunity; to press.
    to strain a petition or invitation
    • Shakespeare
      Note, if your lady strain his entertainment.


strain ‎(countable and uncountable, plural strains)

  1. The act of straining, or the state of being strained.
    • 2013 September-October, Michael Sivak, “Will AC Put a Chill on the Global Energy Supply?”, in American Scientist:
      Nevertheless, it is clear that the global energy demand for air-conditioning will grow substantially as nations become more affluent, [] . This trend will put additional strain not only on global energy resources but also on the environmental prospects of a warming planet.
  2. A violent effort; an excessive and hurtful exertion or tension, as of the muscles.
    he jumped up with a strain;   the strain upon the sailboat's rigging
  3. An injury resulting from violent effort; a sprain.
    • 2011 April 11, Phil McNulty, “Liverpool 3-0 Man City”, in BBC Sport:
      Dirk Kuyt sandwiched a goal in between Carroll's double as City endured a night of total misery, with captain Carlos Tevez limping off early on with a hamstring strain that puts a serious question mark over his participation in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United at Wembley.
  4. (uncountable, engineering) A dimensionless measure of object deformation either referring to engineering strain or true strain.
  5. (obsolete) The track of a deer.
    • 1624, John Smith, Generall Historie, in Kupperman 1988, p. 145:
      When they have shot a Deere by land, they follow him like bloud-hounds by the bloud, and straine, and oftentimes so take them.
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Related terms[edit]