dis·​tend | \di-ˈstend \

Definition of distend 

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

: to become enlarged, expanded, or stretched out causing the stomach to distend

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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."

Examples of distend in a Sentence

an abdomen distended by disease

Recent Examples on the Web

On one table lay the body of someone frozen statue-like in death, the stomach distended and a hand jutting stiffly outward. Washington Post, "Grim task as forensic experts ID Guatemala volcano victims," 8 June 2018 On one table lay the body of someone frozen statue-like in death, the stomach distended and a hand jutting stiffly outward. Sonia Perez D., chicagotribune.com, "Grim task as forensic experts ID Guatemala volcano victims; death toll hits 110," 8 June 2018 Is the prone deer the Trump Family, playing dead to trick the greedy reptile into a fatal mistake, ready to burst forth from its enemy’s distended, overtaxed guts in triumph, perhaps while wearing a tiny red MAGA hat? Mark Lisanti, Vanities, "The Trump Family Power Rankings: Week Ending April 20, 2018," 21 Apr. 2018 One person who saw the corpse of the officer, Major General Ali al-Qahtani, said his neck was twisted as if it had been broken, and that his body was badly bruised and distended. BostonGlobe.com, "Saudis said to use coercion and abuse on nation’s wealthy," 12 Mar. 2018 Larger cells in a woman’s heart could interrupt its electrical pathways, the authors suspect, and extra pressure against the lungs (due to a woman’s large size) could cause the heart to distend. Amanda Macmillan, Time, "5 Ways Being Tall Affects Your Health," 8 Sep. 2017 The boy’s stomach was distended and his diaper was wet, and heavy, as if it hadn’t been changed in a long time. Tom Mcghee, The Denver Post, "Aurora couple charged with child abuse after two babies die under similar circumstances," 8 Mar. 2017 That means building CO2 turbines with metals that won’t crack, distend, or deform, and making them big enough to take the abuse. Nick Stockton, WIRED, "Want Efficient Energy? Try Carbon Dioxide-Powered Turbines," 26 May 2017 After all those births his mother’s belly was permanently distended as if number 11 was on the way. By Charles Hammer, kansascity.com, "Radical tax-cutters for the rich are not really true Republicans," 28 June 2017

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.

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First Known Use of distend

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for distend

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

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Time Traveler for distend

The first known use of distend was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for distend



English Language Learners Definition of distend

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


dis·​tend | \di-ˈstend \
distended; distending

Kids Definition of distend

: expand sense 2, swell Illness can cause the stomach to distend.


transitive verb
dis·​tend | \dis-ˈtend \

Medical Definition of distend 

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

intransitive verb

: to become expanded

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More from Merriam-Webster on distend

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with distend

Spanish Central: Translation of distend

Nglish: Translation of distend for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distend for Arabic Speakers

Comments on distend

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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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