\ 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 Socks, a black-and-white adopted stray, had the run of the White House during the Clinton administration. Washington Post, "Biden has had his dog days. Now he’ll join club of ‘cat people’ world leaders.," 1 May 2021 Whenever a customer entered, the stray would dart into the store and head straight to the toy section. James Lileks, Star Tribune, "Your dog might become internet-famous, with a bit of luck and crooked ears," 30 Apr. 2021 The former President is doing his darndest to enforce that total fealty, seeking to punish those who, like Cheney, stray. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "The Liz Cheney fist bump that will launch a thousand negative ads," 29 Apr. 2021 While cicadas aren’t necessarily looking to take a swim, a few stray cicadas may make their way into your pool or hot tub. Felicity Warner, USA TODAY, "5 tips for cleaning up the aftermath of Brood X," 27 Apr. 2021 But nearly five years later, Cleveland police found Sam as a stray and brought him to Cleveland’s Animal Care & Control, City Dogs Cleveland. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, "Should we start legislative redistricting using population estimates? The Wake Up for Monday, April 19, 2021," 19 Apr. 2021 Huckleberry made his way to Friends for Life by way of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control where he originally was found as a stray. The Arizona Republic, "Linus and more pets up for adoption in Phoenix-area shelters this week," 16 Apr. 2021 Otis, the grey-and-white cat who often visits Loganberry Books with shop owner Harriett Logan, has become an important presence at the Larchmere shop for the past 13 years, ever since Logan adopted the former stray. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland, "The shop cats of Cleveland: 15 local businesses with feline friends," 1 Mar. 2021 Jasmine was originally rescued by AHS all the way back in 2012 when she was brought to the shelter as a stray. The Arizona Republic, "Austin and more pets up for adoption in Phoenix-area shelters this week," 2 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Now, the Party’s enlisting help to make sure online comments don’t stray from the official version of its history. Jane Li, Quartz, "China wants regular citizens to monitor online comments for “harmful” history," 13 Apr. 2021 Each team has an entire floor to itself and nobody can stray to other floors in the hotel. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, "Doc's Morning Line: Props to the college hoopsters for their perseverance," 25 Mar. 2021 If my cultural allusions stray too far beyond Minecraft or Harry Potter, their eyes roll all the way back in their heads. Wired Staff, Wired, "Soothe Yourself With a Picture Book About the Internet Dying," 18 Mar. 2021 Like with Oregon State's centers, Mulkey is a rim protector who doesn't stray from the key. Jeff Metcalfe, The Arizona Republic, "ASU women face big WNIT challenge in Rice 6-9 center Nancy Mulkey," 17 Mar. 2021 In general, McLeod tends to stray away from high-shine finishes like chrome and polished brass, which can be difficult to mix effectively with other metals. Jessica Bennett, Better Homes & Gardens, "5 Fool-Proof Tips for Mixing Metals in Your Home," 2 Mar. 2021 Doing so would stray away from the Army’s original plan for the six-event test to be entirely gender neutral, reported. Greg Norman, Fox News, "Army's first female infantry officer says lowering fitness standards for women would put 'mission at risk'," 27 Feb. 2021 Still, from Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles to Maria Sharapova and Sloane Stephens, Williams has watched many young talents come and go and, on occasion, stray far from tennis. New York Times, "Serena Williams Turns Back Time at Australian Open," 14 Feb. 2021 Throughout the impeachment trial, Murkowski was often cited nationally as a Republican senator who could potentially stray from her party in the final vote. Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s Republican senators split over whether to convict Trump in impeachment vote," 14 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The man arrived home and found two strangers sitting in a car in front of his house – a house that had been hit by stray gunshots in recent years. cleveland, "The evolution of how we report crime, and have you ever heard of a “carjacker-involved shooting?” Letter from the Editor," 24 Apr. 2021 There were several times when stray voices talked over leaders, and the feed from Colombia was fuzzy. Seth Borenstein, Star Tribune, "Unmute, please: Echoes, glitches resound in virtual summit," 22 Apr. 2021 The mechanism, involving stray human proteins and a preservative in the vaccine, remains speculative. Gretchen Vogel, Science | AAAS, "Do preservative and stray proteins cause rare COVID-19 vaccine side effect?," 22 Apr. 2021 Sometimes voters fill in more than one oval, leave stray marks or writing, or the ovals are filled in with red ink, which the municipality’s ballot scanner can’t read. Emily Goodykoontz, Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage election results are certified and ballots are in the mail for the mayoral runoff. Here’s what happens next.," 22 Apr. 2021 The three who were injured were not Vinson's targets but were struck by stray gunfire in the busy bar, Beth and Graveley believe. Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Everything we know so far about the circumstances of the mass shooting at Somers House tavern in Kenosha County," 20 Apr. 2021 There’s a happy ending to the plight of a stray horse hit by a car about 10:30 p.m. March 29 on San Pasqual Valley Road southeast of Escondido. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Red Fox Steakhouse to reopen without beloved jazz player," 19 Apr. 2021 Once again, a few stray showers may develop right around sunset, especially south of the city. Washington Post, "PM Update: Isolated showers this evening. Brighter and warmer on Sunday," 17 Apr. 2021 The county health department is asking anyone who has come in contact with a stray or feral cat — or had a pet come in contact with one — between April 1 and 11 to call 410-313-1773 (or 410-313-2929 after business hours). Jacob Calvin Meyer,, "Rabid feral cat found in Ellicott City, Howard health department says," 14 Apr. 2021

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

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Stray.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for stray



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

More from Merriam-Webster on stray

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stray

Nglish: Translation of stray for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stray for Arabic Speakers

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