verb dis·tend \ di-ˈstend \
|Updated on: 17 Jun 2018

Definition of distend

1 : extend
  • the main outlines of the land yet lay clearly distended before them
  • —Norman Douglas
2 : to enlarge, expand, or stretch out (as from internal pressure) : swell
  • a distended abdomen
: to become enlarged, expanded, or stretched out
  • causing the stomach to distend

distend was our Word of the Day on 03/29/2009. Hear the podcast!

Examples of distend in a Sentence

  1. an abdomen distended by disease

Recent Examples of distend from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distend.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

The history of the word distend stretches back to the Latin verb tendere - a root whose kin have really expanded our language. To find evidence of this expansion, look to words that include "tend" or "tent"; many have "tendere," which means "to stretch, extend, or spread," in their family tree. Perhaps the simplest example is "tent," which names a shelter made from a piece of material stretched over a frame. You'll also find the influence of "tendere" in "extend," "tendon," "contend," "portend," and "tendency."

Origin and Etymology of distend

Middle English, from Latin distendere, from dis- + tendere to stretch — more at thin

Synonym Discussion of distend

expand, amplify, swell, distend, inflate, dilate mean to increase in size or volume. expand may apply regardless of the manner of increase (such as growth, unfolding, addition of parts).
    • a business that expands every year
amplify implies the extension or enlargement of something inadequate.
    • amplify the statement with details
swell implies gradual expansion beyond a thing's original or normal limits.
    • the bureaucracy swelled to unmanageable proportions
distend implies outward extension caused by pressure from within.
    • a distended abdomen
inflate implies expanding by introduction of air or something insubstantial and suggests a vulnerability to sudden collapse.
    • an inflated ego
dilate applies especially to expansion of circumference.
    • dilated pupils

DISTEND Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of distend for English Language Learners

  • medical + formal : to become larger and rounder because of pressure from inside

DISTEND Defined for Kids


verb dis·tend \ di-ˈstend \

Definition of distend for Students

distended; distending
: expand 2, swell
  • Illness can cause the stomach to distend.

Word Root of distend

The Latin word tendere, meaning to “stretch” or “to spread,” and its form tentus give us the roots tend, tent, and tens. Words from the Latin tendere have something to do with stretching or spreading. A tent is a temporary shelter made from stretched out fabric. To distend is to stretch outward and swell in all directions. To extend is to stretch out. A tendon is a cord that connects a muscle to another muscle or to a bone and that stretches allowing a joint to bend. Something tense is stretched tight.

Medical Dictionary


transitive verb dis·tend \ dis-ˈtend \

medical Definition of distend

: to enlarge or stretch out (as from internal pressure)
  • distended veins
: to become expanded

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