sin·​ew | \ ˈsin-(ˌ)yü How to pronounce sinew (audio) also ˈsi-(ˌ)nü \

Definition of sinew

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : tendon especially : one dressed for use as a cord or thread
2 obsolete : nerve
3a : solid resilient strength : power astonishing intellectual sinew and clarity— Reynolds Price
b : the chief supporting force : mainstay usually used in pluralproviding the sinews of better living— Sam Pollock


sinewed; sinewing; sinews

Definition of sinew (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to strengthen as if with sinews

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Did You Know?


Many parts of the body have come to have figurative meanings in English. One can have an eye for interior design, for example, or the stomach for a fight. "Muscle," of course, can mean "strength," and so can "sinew," a word for the tissue that ties muscle to bone - more commonly known as a tendon. (For a while, "sinew" also meant "nerve," but that usage is obsolete.) The use of "sinew" to mean "the chief supporting force" ties into its anatomical function as a stabilizing unit. Sinew derives via Middle English from Old English "seono"; it is also related to Old High German senawa ("sinew") and Sanskrit "syati" ("he binds").

Examples of sinew in a Sentence

Noun cutting through bone and sinew the justices displayed great intellectual depth and sinew in writing their opinion on this case
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun To breathe, to have bones and muscle and sinews and fat, to move, to emote, to love — every last aspect of it is a miracle, which sooner or later will be taken from all of us. Washington Post, "A painting of Théodore Géricault as he lay dying is as astonishing as it is unflinching," 8 Apr. 2020 Small businesses are bone and sinew to the U.S. economy. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, "Coronavirus crunch: One city block reveals small businesses at risk," 10 Apr. 2020 Often that sense of comfort is felt through nerves and sinews tied directly to childhood. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "Finding Comfort in a Bottle of Familiar Wine," 28 Mar. 2020 Along with the sinew and silks, the esteemed hat maker made room for some light-weight, thin gauge wire. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "Switching gears: Milliners are using Kentucky Derby hat supplies for protective face masks," 1 Apr. 2020 Cut through the meat tendons and sinews and then press the meat down firmly to form a lollipop. Allie Morris,, "Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Smoked Chicken Lollipops," 6 Mar. 2020 The suspension has enough sinew now to actually make driving interesting. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, "We'd Like Our Nissan Altima More If It Were Quicker," 6 Feb. 2020 The Swiss scientists were able to show that leg sinews from an unidentified species were processed as fibers and the cord was therefore very well suited for use as a bowstring, according to their statement. Fox News, "Otzi the Iceman's bowstring identified by scientists," 24 Dec. 2019 Money, as Cicero observed, is the sinews of war, and human beings have been at war with M. tuberculosis for a long time. The Economist, "Tuberculosis kills more people than any other pathogenic illness," 14 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In Rauch’s lively production, which deftly sinews the in-the-round Fichandler Stage, chorus members execute resonant stylized movement and also take cameos, such as a diner cook and waitress (Lamar and Kate Mulligan). Celia Wren, Washington Post, "‘Mother Road’ is often a slog despite burnished production at Arena Stage," 17 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sinew.' 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 sinew


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1614, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for sinew


Middle English sinewe, from Old English seono; akin to Old High German senawa sinew, Sanskrit syati he binds

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Time Traveler for sinew

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The first known use of sinew was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sinew.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for sinew


How to pronounce sinew (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sinew

: strong tissue that connects muscles to bones


sin·​ew | \ ˈsin-yü How to pronounce sinew (audio) \

Kids Definition of sinew


sin·​ew | \ ˈsin-(ˌ)yü, -yə(-w) also ˈsin-(ˌ)ü \

Medical Definition of sinew

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More from Merriam-Webster on sinew

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sinew

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sinew

Spanish Central: Translation of sinew

Nglish: Translation of sinew for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sinew for Arabic Speakers

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