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sin·​ew ˈsin-(ˌ)yü How to pronounce sinew (audio)
 also  ˈsi-(ˌ)nü
: tendon
especially : one dressed for use as a cord or thread
obsolete : nerve
: solid resilient strength : power
astonishing intellectual sinew and clarityReynolds Price
: the chief supporting force : mainstay
usually used in plural
providing the sinews of better livingSam Pollock


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sinewed; sinewing; sinews

transitive verb

: to strengthen as if with sinews

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 lack the stomach for horror movies. 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 and nerve were used in a synonymous manner for both tendons and nerves, but the use of sinew in the sense of "nerve" is now obsolete, and nerve in the sense of "sinew" or "tendon" is now primarily found only in certain phrases such as "strain every nerve" (which implies making every possible effort). 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
His default play is based on straining every sinew and reacting as if each point is a fight to the finish. Tim Ellis, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2024 Chips are the sinews and synapses of modern society. Pat Gelsinger, Fortune, 20 Mar. 2024 Finally, combat is the sinew holding the bones of the adventure together. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, 16 Jan. 2024 King Alaric and the Visigoths who sacked Rome in 410 A.D. entered without superior weapons or financial sinews. Armstrong Williams, Baltimore Sun, 9 Feb. 2024 The hides and sinews and plant fibers worn by our ancestors all rotted away, leaving little physical trace in the archaeological record. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, 2 Jan. 2024 Shading transforms into sinew, a horse’s head looks down from the ceiling. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, 26 Oct. 2023 Participants loop synthetic sinew from their ear to that of their competition. Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News, 16 July 2023 Bud wasn’t physically imposing, not all sinew and shoulders — but he was meticulously built. Tyler R. Tynes, Los Angeles Times, 23 July 2023
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, 17 Feb. 2020

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

Word History



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

First Known Use


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


circa 1614, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near sinew

Cite this Entry

“Sinew.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


 also  ˈsin-ü
: tendon
especially : one prepared for use as a cord or thread
: solid strength : power

Medical Definition


ˈsin-(ˌ)yü, -yə(-w) also ˈsin-(ˌ)ü
: tendon

More from Merriam-Webster on sinew

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