\ ˈstrā How to pronounce stray (audio) \

Definition of stray

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a domestic animal that is wandering at large or is lost
b : a person or thing that strays
2 [Middle English, from straien to stray] archaic : the act of going astray


strayed; straying; strays

Definition of stray (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: wander: such as
a : to wander from company, restraint, or proper limits
b : to roam about without fixed direction or purpose
c : to move in a winding course : meander
d : to move without conscious or intentional effort eyes straying absently around the room
e : to become distracted from an argument or train of thought strayed from the point
f : to wander accidentally from a fixed or chosen route
g : err, sin



Definition of stray (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : having strayed or escaped from a proper or intended place a stray dog
2 : occurring at random or sporadically stray thoughts
3 : not serving any useful purpose : unwanted stray light

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Other Words from stray


strayer noun

Examples of stray in a Sentence

Noun Both of her cats were strays that she found wandering in the neighborhood. Verb The airplane strayed off course. our straying son swears he's returned to the straight and narrow Adjective stray sightings of UFO's, none of which have been rigorously analyzed by scientists
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That’s because any other stray matter being sucked into the black hole would emit a blast of radiation during its death spiral powerful enough to kill any life on a nearby planet. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Could a habitable planet orbit a black hole?," 4 Feb. 2020 That means that all the materials involved—the one radiating away the infrared and the one generating spare electrons—will absorb some of the stray photons, decreasing the overall efficiency of the device. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Variant of photovoltaic power could generate 24 hours a day," 4 Feb. 2020 In total, the researchers studied 160 adult strays. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian Magazine, "Stray Dogs May Understand Human Signals, Too," 21 Jan. 2020 In 1914, crew members of the lighthouse tender Hyacinth rescued a stray puppy from the Milwaukee River and named him Sport. Ellen Piligian, Detroit Free Press, "Poetry, a cookbook and reflections on Detroit history make Michigan Notable Books list," 19 Jan. 2020 Understanding stray dogs Stray dogs are also not a recent phenomenon. National Geographic, "Stray dogs have the natural ability to understand human gestures," 17 Jan. 2020 But this is a case that’s sparked countless conspiracy theories over the years, and a stray piece of wire near a dead man’s remains strikes some as suspicious., "Accused podcast, Season 3, Chapter 6: Last day laid bare," 14 Jan. 2020 As a teacher, he’s known to greet strays and interlopers with attentiveness. Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker, "Robert Hass’s Inner History of the Decade," 13 Jan. 2020 Although the setting might sound odd for a precision physics experiment, the corn provided a good source of absorption for stray microwaves that might have interfered with our measurements. Urbasi Sinha, Scientific American, "Quantum Slits Open New Doors," 7 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Layers of graphene, studded with sticky chemical tethers, could keep proteins from straying too close. Eric Hand, Science | AAAS, "‘We need a people’s cryo-EM.’ Scientists hope to bring revolutionary microscope to the masses," 23 Jan. 2020 The sailors on the gunboats undertook a last-minute mission without proper training or equipment and were captured after straying into the waters surrounding an Iranian naval base on Farsi Island. T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, "Trump Says U.S. Is Ready for War. Not All His Troops Are So Sure.," 17 Jan. 2020 With more attention, Amity & Commerce would be in a better position to keep those appetites from straying. Washington Post, "At two hotel restaurants, there’s room for improvement," 9 Jan. 2020 Meanwhile, costumer Tommy Price is cutting stray threads off tutus, sorting hair accessories and arranging garment racks. Matthew J. Palm,, "CFCArts Christmas extravaganza: 4 months of work for 3 nights of joy," 11 Dec. 2019 With the sheep less than 100 yards away, Armentrout called for two other dogs, Feather and Sam, to assist Pickett in forming a barrier that kept the sheep from straying. Jessica Wetzler,, "‘Lost Art’ of the cattle dog still found in the valley," 22 Nov. 2019 Your romantic partners are not entitled to every hour of your life and stray thought in your brain. Love, "I messed up my confession," 4 Nov. 2019 Not even a navigational smartphone app was able to keep him from straying miles off the trail and into a boulder field. Fox News, "Pacific Crest Trail hiker, 50, rescued after bad storm hits, says he 'wouldn't have survived another night'," 21 Oct. 2019 Those included harassing the birds with herding dogs and letting grass grow higher around ponds and the river to dissuade the birds from straying onto greens and fairways. USA TODAY, "Rare elephant calf, two-headed rattlesnake, another quake off Oregon: News from around our 50 states," 6 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Any time you can just get hit by a stray bullet, out of nowhere, then how can you be protected? CBS News, "Pregnant mother of five shot and killed but fetus survives," 3 Feb. 2020 When a firefighter adopts a stray cat, a veterinarian teaches him how to care for his fragile pet, which leads to unexpected romance for the single man and woman. Chris Foran,, "Christmas TV guide 2019: Where and when you can find holiday shows, from Hallmark movies to 'Grinch'," 25 Nov. 2019 That same night, Gonzalez’s agency investigated an unrelated death of a woman who was struck by a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire north of the city. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "Houston man arrested after posting video of him shooting gun into air on New Year’s Eve," 9 Jan. 2020 Duke is wanted on felonious assault after an 11-year-old girl was struck by a stray bullet in West Price Hill and taken to Children's Hospital on Christmas Day. Madeline Mitchell,, "Police need help locating man they say is connected to Christmas Day shooting of 11-year-old," 31 Dec. 2019 How to find a missing pet in Arizona Maricopa County Animal Care and Control has an interactive map that shows stray pets without identification that have been impounded. Kimi Robinson, azcentral, "How Sasha the lost cat found his way home after 5 years and 1,300 miles," 21 Nov. 2019 Most of those animals — about 500 — were stray pets residing in shelters in the islands before Dorian even arrived. Kate Santich,, "Animal rescue groups brace for long haul in hurricane-ravaged Bahamas," 8 Oct. 2019 The woman shot in Oakland on Sunday was inside a home when a stray bullet that was fired outside struck her, police said Monday. Erin Allday,, "Stray bullet from street enters West Oakland home, strikes woman," 18 Nov. 2019 Metro driver explains shooting:'made right call speeding to hospital' A stray bullet from the street found the father of two, a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. Chris Mayhew,, "Cincinnati police seek suspect in North Avondale Metro bus shooting of 21-year-old," 14 Nov. 2019

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


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


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for stray


Middle English, from Anglo-French estraié, past participle of estraier


Middle English straien, from Anglo-French estraier, from Vulgar Latin *extravagare, from Latin extra- outside + vagari to wander — more at extra-

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Time Traveler for stray

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for stray

Last Updated

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stray.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for stray


How to pronounce stray (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of stray

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: an animal (such as a cat or dog) that is lost or has no home
: a person or thing that is separated from a group



English Language Learners Definition of stray (Entry 2 of 3)

: to go in a direction that is away from a group or from the place where you should be



English Language Learners Definition of stray (Entry 3 of 3)

of an animal : lost or having no home
: separated from another or others of the same kind
: not in or going in the proper or intended place


\ ˈstrā How to pronounce stray (audio) \

Kids Definition of stray

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: a domestic animal (as a cat or dog) that is lost or has no home


strayed; straying

Kids Definition of stray (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : to wander from a group or from the proper place : roam The gate was left open and the cow strayed.
2 : to go off from a direct or chosen route or the right course We strayed from the path.
3 : to become distracted from a topic or train of thought



Kids Definition of stray (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : lost or having no home a stray dog
2 : not in the proper or intended place I found a few stray socks.
3 : occurring here and there : random a few stray hairs

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More from Merriam-Webster on stray

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stray

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stray

Spanish Central: Translation of stray

Nglish: Translation of stray for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stray for Arabic Speakers

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