\ 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

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
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The driver was not injured, but his car’s back window was shattered by an apparent stray bullet. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 Aug. 2022 In a political city, a reading so near to 90 might prompt partly serious efforts to find the stray degree by a thermal recount. Martin Weil, Washington Post, 20 Aug. 2022 Animal control issued an emergency plea late Tuesday, saying the agency’s headquarters and adoption center, where stray and owner-released animals are housed, was overcrowded. Matt Bruce, ajc, 18 Aug. 2022 Nearby, half a dozen stray dogs lie in the shade of a tree, sniffing at rotting apples on the ground. Ian Lovett, WSJ, 16 Aug. 2022 Despite the occasional stray chord, early entrance or rusty patch, Metallica remained committed to its craft and challenged itself to make even staple material feel vital. Bob Gendron, Chicago Tribune, 29 July 2022 The story behind the cattle sting starts on March 2, 2021, when Special Ranger Marty Baker, 58, was dispatched from Midland, Texas, to Loving County to investigate the shooting deaths of five black stray cattle. Susan Carroll, NBC News, 22 July 2022 Once a malnourished stray, Vinny-Duke was trained by prisoners in Florida. Kris Van Cleave, CBS News, 14 July 2022 In encountering a stray, any productive measures taken to aid the animal are encouraged and helpful, Walker said. Griffin Wiles, The Indianapolis Star, 12 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The board argued the reason is that money talks, and doling out billions in aid to Americans is a path the government does not want to stray from. Taylor Penley, Fox News, 20 Sep. 2022 Some scholars argue that because of this, the court strives not to stray too far from public opinion, because doing so could damage people’s respect for the court – and its authority. Eve Ringsmuth, The Conversation, 1 Aug. 2022 Some simply don’t want to stray too far from Ukraine. Hanna Kozlowska, The New Republic, 13 Apr. 2022 California Attorney General Rob Bonta sued Amazon on antitrust grounds Wednesday, arguing that the e-commerce titan uses its power to keep third-party sellers off competing marketplaces and punishes those who stray from the company’s platform. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 15 Sep. 2022 Because of this, female consumers tended to stray away from any CBD purchases. Stephanie Burns, Forbes, 24 Sep. 2021 Wisconsin, however, is one of 13 states whose tax codes stray from the federal government, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Kelly Meyerhofer, Journal Sentinel, 30 Aug. 2022 Today, officials retrieve most wolves that stray beyond. Matt Mcclain, Washington Post, 25 Aug. 2022 Regardless of why birds stray, vagrants can be a surprising source of revenue for local economies as birders flock for their chance to add an exclusive avian to their lifetime lists of birds. Marina Wang, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Officers also learned that a stray bullet from the incident struck a man who was across the street on the GCU campus. Perry Vandell, The Arizona Republic, 28 Sep. 2022 The unidentified girl was near a front door of a nearby home when she was grazed by a stray bullet. Louis Casiano, Fox News, 24 Sep. 2022 All of a sudden, a gunfight broke out, and Ayala was hit with a stray bullet. Julyssa Lopez, Rolling Stone, 19 Sep. 2022 No one was injured in the shooting, though a bystander was struck by a stray bullet. San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Sep. 2022 One of the three remaining defendants in the death of a sleeping 9-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet in her New Jersey home four years ago has entered a plea in the case. Fox News, 31 Aug. 2022 Stubbs seems genuinely delighted when he isn’t hit by any stray bullets. Erik Kain, Forbes, 8 Aug. 2022 The second car hit by stray bullets was unoccupied, police said., 7 Aug. 2022 Largely overlooked are the day-to-day handgun deaths attributable to domestic violence, crossfire from stray bullets, criminal acts, gang wars, personal disputes and, in many cases, suicides. Barbara Davidson, Washington Post, 27 July 2022 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near stray

straw yellow



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Last Updated

20 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Stray.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for stray


\ 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

Nglish: Translation of stray for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stray for Arabic Speakers


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