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See also: străin and Strain


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  • IPA(key): /stɹeɪn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪn

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. (archaic) Race; lineage, pedigree.
  2. (biology) A particular variety of a microbe, virus, or other organism, usually a taxonomically infraspecific one.
    They say this year's flu virus is a particularly virulent strain.
    • 2009 August 4, Lawrence K. Altman, “New Strain of H.I.V. Is Discovered”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      European scientists have discovered a new strain of the virus that causes AIDS and linked it to gorillas, creating a mystery about when and how the first patient found to have the strain became infected.
  3. (figurative) Hereditary character, quality, tendency, or disposition.
    Synonyms: propensity, proneness
    There is a strain of madness in her family.
    • a. 1694, John Tillotson, The Advantages of Religion to Societies:
      Intemperance and lust breed diseases, which being propogated, spoil the strain of a nation.
  4. (music, poetry) 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, etc.
    Synonyms: theme, motive, manner, style
    • 1846, Nathaniel Hawthorne, “P.'s Correspondence”, in Mosses from an Old Manse:
      Yet Keats, though for so many years he has given nothing to the world, is understood to have devoted himself to the composition of an epic poem. Some passages of it have been communicated to the inner circle of his admirers, and impressed them as the loftiest strains that have been audible on earth since Milton’s days.
  5. Language that is eloquent, poetic, or otherwise heightened.
    (The addition of quotations indicative of this usage is being sought:)
  6. (rare) A kind or sort (of person etc.).
  7. (obsolete) Treasure.
  8. (obsolete) The blood-vessel in the yolk of an egg.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

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


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

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To hold tightly, to clasp.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book III, Canto II”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC:
      So hauing said, her twixt her armes twaine / She straightly straynd, and colled tenderly []
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Eighth Book of the Æneis”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      Evander with a close embrace / Strained his departing friend.
    • 1859, Ferna Vale, Natalie; or, A Gem Among the Sea-Weeds:
      "Farewell!"—the mother strained her child to her heart again, and again put her from her, to embrace her more closely.
  2. (transitive) 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. (transitive) To damage by drawing, stretching, or the exertion of force.
    The gale strained the timbers of the ship.
  4. (transitive) To act upon, in any way, so as to cause change of form or volume, as when bending a beam.
  5. (transitive, intransitive) 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.
  6. (transitive) 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
  7. (transitive) To separate solid from liquid by passing through a strainer or colander.
    • 2017 November 14, Matthew Kenney, PLANTLAB, Simon and Schuster, →ISBN:
      Strain the noodles and rinse with fresh water until it runs clear. The noodles should be soft, but not mushy.
  8. (intransitive) To percolate; to be filtered.
    water straining through a sandy soil
  9. (transitive) To make uneasy or unnatural; to produce with apparent effort; to force; to constrain.
  10. (transitive) To urge with importunity; to press.
    to strain a petition or invitation
  11. (transitive) To hug somebody; to hold somebody tightly.
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


strain (countable and uncountable, plural strains)

Strain (meaning 4) is observed when this aluminium plate is subject to torsion.
  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.
    • 1832, Charles Stewart Drewry (A.M.I.C.E.), A memoir on suspension bridges, page 183:
      If the Menai Bridge, for instance, were loaded at that rate, the entire strain on the main chains would be about 2000 tons ; while the chains containing 260 square inches of iron would bear, at 9 tons per square inch, 2340 tons, without stretching  ...
    • 2004, Sanjay Shrivastava, Medical Device Materials: Proceedings from the Materials & Processes for Medical Devices Conference 2003, 8-10 September 2003, Anaheim, California, ASM International, →ISBN, page 176:
      Therefore, the goal of this study is to assess the influence of strain on the corrosion resistance of passivated Nitinol and stainless steel implant materials. Materials and Methods Nitinol (50.8%at. Ni) wire (NDC, Fremont, CA) and 316L stainless ...
  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.
    • 2010, Peter Corris, Torn Apart, Allen and Unwin, page 162:
      They used steroids to build strength but, more importantly, to recover from strains, pulls, dislocations.
    • 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.
    • 1950 March, H. A. Vallance, “On Foot Across the Forth Bridge”, in Railway Magazine, page 149:
      Detailed records are kept of the strains imposed on the bridge by the violent gales that frequently sweep the firth, and a self-recording wind gauge is fixed on the top of the tower.
  5. (obsolete) The track of a deer.
    • 1624, John Smith, Generall Historie, Kupperman, published 1988, page 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.
Derived terms[edit]
  • Irish: straidhn

Related terms[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English strenen (to beget, father, procreate), from Old English strēonan, strīenan, strȳnan (to beget, generate, gain, acquire), from Proto-Germanic *striunijaną (to furnish, decorate, acquire).


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

  1. (obsolete) To beget, generate (of light), engender, copulate (both of animals and humans), lie with, be born, come into the world.
    A man straineth, liveth, then dieth.
    Man, look at that cat straining that kitty.