Definition of strait

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a comparatively narrow passageway connecting two large bodies of water often used in plural but singular in construction
b : isthmus
c archaic : a narrow space or passage
2 : a situation of perplexity or distress often used in plural in dire straits


\ ˈstrāt How to pronounce strait (audio) \

Definition of strait (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : causing distress : difficult
b : limited as to means or resources
2 archaic : strict, rigorous
3 archaic
a : narrow
b : limited in space or time
c : closely fitting : constricted, tight



Definition of strait (Entry 3 of 3)

: in a close or tight manner

Other Words from strait


straitly adverb
straitness noun

Synonyms for strait

Synonyms: Noun

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Choose the Right Synonym for strait


juncture, exigency, emergency, contingency, pinch, strait (or straits) crisis mean a critical or crucial time or state of affairs. juncture stresses the significant concurrence or convergence of events. an important juncture in our country's history exigency stresses the pressure of restrictions or urgency of demands created by a special situation. provide for exigencies emergency applies to a sudden unforeseen situation requiring prompt action to avoid disaster. the presence of mind needed to deal with emergencies contingency implies an emergency or exigency that is regarded as possible but uncertain of occurrence. contingency plans pinch implies urgency or pressure for action to a less intense degree than exigency or emergency. come through in a pinch strait, now commonly straits, applies to a troublesome situation from which escape is extremely difficult. in dire straits crisis applies to a juncture whose outcome will make a decisive difference. a crisis of confidence

strait or straight?

Straight and strait are homophones (“one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling”), and many people are in the habit of confusing such creatures, particularly when used in fixed phrases. If you express no emotion you have a straight face; an upright person is a straight shooter; a straight flush is “a poker hand containing five cards of the same suit in sequence.” However, if you find yourself in a difficult situation you are in dire straits. Straitjacket and straitlaced are the more commonly used forms for the restrictive garment and the “strict in manners” adjective, although straightjacket and straightlaced are also occasionally found.

Examples of strait in a Sentence

Noun Her campaign is in desperate straits. The company is in desperate financial straits. The economy is in dire straits.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun While engagement across the strait had once increased, the election of President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party triggered animosity from Beijing. Kimmy Yam, NBC News, 18 May 2022 Far less commercially developed than its big cousin Mallorca just across a Balearic Sea strait in the Mediterranean, Menorca surprises at every turn. John Oseid, Forbes, 18 May 2022 The island banned flights from across the strait in January 2020, immediately after the virus was detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Time, 6 May 2022 Outside, Óli's son harvested hay with a neighbor's tractor, and the sea grew rough in the strait. Sarah Moss, Travel + Leisure, 20 Feb. 2022 The only thing left of that craft, in the bottom of a strait in the Solomon Islands, was the torpedo tube. Frederick Dreier, Outside Online, 30 Mar. 2022 Turkey essentially has veto power over foreign warships transiting the strait, and on a whim could keep warships out—or in—indefinitely. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 30 Mar. 2022 Especially for Taiwan, that means investing less in high-prestige aircraft and ships and more in mines, submarines, drones, missiles and air defenses that can impose heavy costs on a Chinese attempt to cross the strait. Caitlin Talmadge, WSJ, 3 Mar. 2022 Under its current president, Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwan government has positioned the island as a Chinese society that is democratic and tolerant, unlike the colossus across the strait. New York Times, 19 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The culture Clark cultivated in City Hall stood in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, a strait-laced conservative who was often escorted to work by a police detail. oregonlive, 15 May 2022 Nunzio was next, the son who was so strait-laced that his brothers referred to him as Bob Dole, the U.S. senator from Kansas. Kevin Armstrong, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2021 Japan’s new boldness reflects its wariness of China’s growing assertiveness as well as of worsening cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan, said the Japanese official. Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2022 Thousands braved the cold and wind to witness Harry Houdini free himself of a strait-jacket while suspended in the air over the intersection of Crocket and Navarro in downtown San Antonio. San Antonio Express-News, 31 Jan. 2022 And with it, the number of cross-strait extraditions have also plummeted. Wayne Chang And Nectar Gan, CNN, 26 Nov. 2021 But to Beijing, the offer is a major provocation that risks escalating both cross-strait and US-China relations, Nectar Gan and Ben Westcott write. Kara Fox, CNN, 9 June 2021 Notice, too, how Xi blames Taiwan for cross-strait tensions even as his air force violates Taiwanese airspace with impunity. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 20 Nov. 2021 Taiwan's defense minister has warned that cross-strait relations are at their worst in 40 years. Clay Chandler And Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, 16 Nov. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'strait.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of strait


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1c


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for strait


Middle English, from Anglo-French estreit, from Latin strictus strait, strict, from past participle of stringere

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The first known use of strait was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near strait

strain theory



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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Strait.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for strait


\ ˈstrāt How to pronounce strait (audio) \

Kids Definition of strait

1 : a narrow channel connecting two bodies of water
2 : a situation of difficulty or distress often used in pl. The lost hikers were in dire straits.

More from Merriam-Webster on strait

Nglish: Translation of strait for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of strait for Arabic Speakers


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