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over·​stretch ˈō-vər-ˌstrech How to pronounce overstretch (audio)
plural overstretches
: the act or an instance of stretching something beyond normal limits
an overstretch of political power
… a classic case of military and economic overstretch.Robert G. Patman


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over·​stretch ˌō-vər-ˈstrech How to pronounce overstretch (audio)
overstretched; overstretching

transitive + intransitive

: to stretch (something or someone) to excess or beyond normal limits
Worsted yarn, and any yarn inclined to "kink" should be weighted slightly as it dries, but take care not to overstretch the wool.Eileen Hobden
temperature changes causing the tire to overstretch
They overstretched [=overextended] themselves financially.
Too few staff means overstretched [=overburdened] crews and patients waiting for longer.Christina McAnea

Examples of overstretch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The overriding issue here is what the Yale historian Paul Kennedy called imperial overstretch. Frank Costigliola, Foreign Affairs, 27 Jan. 2023
The country is facing long-term headwinds from an ageing population, chronically weak growth and overstretched public services, amplified by a surge in borrowing costs. Reuters, Fortune Europe, 20 Nov. 2023 He was already overstretched and underfunded—and afraid that further escalation on the border could propel a hundred thousand more people into Tyre alone. Rania Abouzeid, The New Yorker, 10 Nov. 2023 However, anyone can tear their Achilles tendon – which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone – if the tendon is overstretched. Caitlin O'Kane, CBS News, 12 Sep. 2023 Then came the pandemic, which found U.S. manufacturers at the mercy of distant and overstretched supply chains. Valerie J. Karplus, Foreign Affairs, 19 Mar. 2021 That would place additional demand on a network of clinics that is already overstretched, particularly in states that have become destinations for people who must travel for care. Jamie Ducharme, Time, 18 Aug. 2023 Calf strains happen when the calf muscles get overstretched. Victoria Moorwood, The Enquirer, 28 July 2023 But Iran’s electricity grid is overstretched, and to pump more of the gas sitting underground and repair the grid, the government needs foreign investment and technology, which have been blocked for years by Western sanctions imposed because of Iran’s nuclear buildup. Leily Nikounazar, New York Times, 2 Aug. 2023 The collapse of the Syrian economy and growing discontent among Assad loyalists—as well as a Turkish military intervention that has pro-regime forces badly overstretched—have created an opening. Jennifer Cafarella, Foreign Affairs, 18 Feb. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'overstretch.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1749, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of overstretch was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near overstretch

Cite this Entry

“Overstretch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overstretch. Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

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