strain

1 of 3

noun (1)

1
b
: a group of presumed common ancestry with clear-cut physiological but usually not morphological distinctions
a high-yielding strain of winter wheat
broadly : a specified infraspecific group (such as a stock, line, or ecotype)
c
: kind, sort
discussions of a lofty strain
2
a
: inherited or inherent character, quality, or disposition
a strain of weakness in the family
b
: trace, streak
a strain of fanaticism
3
a
: tune, air
b
: a passage of verbal or musical expression
c
: a stream or outburst of forceful or impassioned speech
4
a
: the tenor, pervading note, burden, or tone of an utterance or of a course of action or conduct
b

strain

2 of 3

verb

strained; straining; strains

transitive verb

1
a
: to draw tight : cause to fit firmly
strain the bandage over the wound
b
: to stretch to maximum extension and tautness
strain a canvas over a frame
2
a
: to exert (oneself, one's senses, etc.) to the utmost
b
: to injure by overuse, misuse, or excessive pressure
strained his back
c
: to cause a change of form or size in (a body) by application of external force
3
: to squeeze or clasp tightly: such as
a
: hug
b
: to compress painfully : constrict
4
a
: to cause to pass through a strainer : filter
b
: to remove by straining
strain lumps out of the gravy
5
: to stretch beyond a proper limit
that story strains my credulity
6
obsolete : to squeeze out : extort

intransitive verb

1
a
: to make violent efforts : strive
has to strain to reach the high notes
b
: to pull against resistance
a dog straining at its leash
c
: to contract the muscles forcefully in attempting to defecate
often used in the phrase strain at stool
2
: to pass through or as if through a strainer
the liquid strains readily
3
: to make great difficulty or resistance : balk

strain

3 of 3

noun (2)

1
: an act of straining or the condition of being strained: such as
a
: bodily injury from excessive tension, effort, or use
heart strain
especially : one resulting from a wrench or twist and involving undue stretching of muscles or ligaments
back strain
b
: excessive or difficult exertion or labor
c
: excessive physical or mental tension
also : a force, influence, or factor causing such tension
a strain on the marriage
d
: deformation of a material body under the action of applied forces
2
: an unusual reach, degree, or intensity : pitch
3
archaic : a strained interpretation of something said or written
Phrases
strain a point
: to go beyond a usual, accepted, or proper limit or rule

Examples of strain in a Sentence

Verb I strained my back trying to lift the couch. Too much computer work strains the eyes. He strained a muscle in his leg. His muscles strained under the heavy weight.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Those two owls, a female from the Living Coast Discovery Center and male from the Safari Park, had both been hatched in captivity as the local conservation breeding program was halted due to an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of avian flu. Emily Alvarenga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Feb. 2024 Some recommendations will specify the strain or the strain nickname. Shushy Rita Setrakian Ms, Verywell Health, 21 Feb. 2024 The strains placed on Indian federalism may boil over in 2026, when parliamentary seats are scheduled to be reallocated according to the next census, to be conducted in that year. Ramachandra Guha, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 But the signs of strain are probably most evident in the county’s production and construction industries. Ryan Hogg, Fortune Europe, 19 Feb. 2024 Despite the strain, Sydney would soon go on to elevate her guest spots on shows like 90210 to starring roles in Everything Sucks! Emily Blackwood, Peoplemag, 19 Feb. 2024 Dengue is an illness caused by infection with one of four dengue virus strains (dengue-1, -2, -3 or -4). Stephen J. Thomas, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 Where Foster’s performances have so often been tightly held, full of strain, this role is full of ease and humor. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, 18 Feb. 2024 And through the first half of the season, perhaps Zadina was feeling a bit of that strain. Curtis Pashelka, The Mercury News, 16 Feb. 2024
Verb
Trust has already been compromised, and recording conversations may further strain the situation. Johnny C. Taylor Jr., USA TODAY, 22 Feb. 2024 As morning turned to afternoon Tuesday, a bit of sunlight strained to get through dark and gray clouds, like a dog poking its nose through a barely open window. Ethan Baron, The Mercury News, 20 Feb. 2024 Worse, they are strained at both the rack level and across the datacenter. Matt Kimball, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2024 Already strained humanitarian pipelines running through the border would collapse, the United Nations has said. Miriam Berger, Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2024 All that means a single workout or afternoon of hardcore chores could unexpectedly strain your muscles and joints. Cindy Kuzma, SELF, 14 Feb. 2024 All of this significantly strained U.S. naval manpower, causing ships to deploy undermanned and for longer durations. Gil Barndollar, TIME, 12 Feb. 2024 Woody strained to meet a high note or two, but maintained an electric presence onstage — one that his colleagues never quite matched. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2024 He has been sidelined since straining his pectoral muscle in the AFC divisional game against Buffalo. Danny Emerman, The Mercury News, 6 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English streen progeny, lineage, from Old English strēon gain, acquisition; akin to Old High German gistriuni gain, Latin struere to heap up — more at strew

Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French estreindre, from Latin stringere to bind or draw tight, press together; akin to Greek strang-, stranx drop squeezed out, strangalē halter

First Known Use

Noun (1)

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun (2)

1558, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of strain was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near strain

Cite this Entry

“Strain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/strain. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

strain

1 of 3 noun
1
b
: a group of plants or animals that look alike but have characteristics (as the ability to resist disease) that make them slightly different : variety sense 3b
a strong strain of winter wheat
2
a
: a quality or disposition that is natural or runs through a family
a strain of genius in the family
b
: a small amount : trace, streak
a strain of sadness
3
4
: the manner or style of something said or of a course of action or conduct

strain

2 of 3 verb
1
a
: to draw tight : cause to clasp firmly
b
: to stretch to maximum extension and tightness
2
a
: to try one's hardest : strive
b
: to injure or be injured by overuse, misuse, or pressure
strained the heart by overwork
strain one's back by lifting
3
a
: to pass or cause to pass through or as if through a strainer : filter
b
: to remove by straining
strain lumps out of the gravy
4
: to stretch beyond a proper limit
strain the truth

strain

3 of 3 noun
1
: an act of straining or the state of being strained
2
: bodily injury caused by too much tension, effort, or use
heart strain
especially : one resulting from a wrench or twist and involving severe stretching of muscles or ligaments
back strain

Medical Definition

strain

1 of 3 noun
: a group of presumed common ancestry with clear-cut physiological but usually not morphological distinctions
a highly virulent strain of bacteria

strain

2 of 3 transitive verb
1
a
: to exert (as oneself) to the utmost
b
: to injure by overuse, misuse, or excessive pressure
strained his heart by overwork
c
: to cause a change of form or size in (a body) by application of external force
2
: to cause to pass through a strainer

intransitive verb

: to contract the muscles forcefully in attempting to defecate
often used in the phrase strain at stool

strain

3 of 3 noun
: an act of straining or the condition of being strained: as
a
: excessive physical or mental tension
also : a force, influence, or factor causing such tension
b
: bodily injury from excessive tension, effort, or use
heart strain
especially : one resulting from a wrench or twist and involving undue stretching of muscles or ligaments
back strain
compare sprain
c
: deformation of a material body under the action of applied forces

More from Merriam-Webster on strain

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