lean

1 of 5

verb (1)

leaned ˈlēnd How to pronounce lean (audio)
 chiefly British  ˈlent
; leaning ˈlē-niŋ How to pronounce lean (audio) ; leans

intransitive verb

1
a
: to incline, deviate, or bend from a vertical position
He leaned back in his chair.
b
: to cast one's weight to one side for support
Lean on me as we walk.
2
: to rely for support or inspiration
… preferred not to lean on his father in building a career.Current Biography
3
: to incline in opinion, taste, or desire
leaning toward a career in chemistry

transitive verb

: to cause to lean : incline
The boy leaned his head on his mother's shoulder.

see also lean in, lean on

lean

2 of 5

noun (1)

: the act or an instance of leaning : inclination

lean

3 of 5

adjective

1
a
: lacking or deficient in flesh
b
: containing little or no fat
lean meat
2
: lacking richness, sufficiency, or productiveness
lean profits
the lean years
3
: deficient in an essential or important quality or ingredient: such as
a
of ore : containing little valuable mineral
b
: low in combustible component
used especially of fuel mixtures
4
: characterized by economy (as of style, expression, or operation)
leanly adverb
leanness noun

lean

4 of 5

verb (2)

leaned; leaning; leans

transitive verb

: to make lean

lean

5 of 5

noun (2)

: the part of meat that consists principally of lean muscle
Choose the Right Synonym for lean

lean, spare, lank, lanky, gaunt, rawboned, scrawny, skinny mean thin because of an absence of excess flesh.

lean stresses lack of fat and of curving contours.

a lean racehorse

spare suggests leanness from abstemious living or constant exercise.

the gymnast's spare figure

lank implies tallness as well as leanness.

the lank legs of the heron

lanky suggests awkwardness and loose-jointedness as well as thinness.

a lanky youth, all arms and legs

gaunt implies marked thinness or emaciation as from overwork or suffering.

a prisoner's gaunt face

rawboned suggests a large ungainly build without implying undernourishment.

a rawboned farmer

scrawny and skinny imply an extreme leanness that suggests deficient strength and vitality.

a scrawny chicken
skinny street urchins

Example Sentences

Adjective She has a lean, athletic body. all of the marathoners are extremely lean

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1) and Noun (1)

Middle English lenen, from Old English hleonian; akin to Old High German hlinēn to lean, Greek klinein, Latin clinare

Adjective

Middle English lene, from Old English hlǣne

First Known Use

Verb (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Noun (1)

1776, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lean was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near lean

Cite this Entry

“Lean.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lean. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

lean

1 of 4 verb
leaned ˈlēnd How to pronounce lean (audio)
 chiefly British  ˈlent
; leaning ˈlē-niŋ How to pronounce lean (audio)
1
a
: to slant or cause to slant or bend from an upright position
the tree leans to one side
lean a ladder against a wall
b
: to cast one's weight to one side for support
lean on me
2
: to depend for support
lean on one's family in a crisis
3
: to tend in opinion, taste, or desire
lean toward simplicity

lean

2 of 4 noun
: the act or an instance of leaning

lean

3 of 4 adjective
1
a
: having little body fat
lean cattle
b
: containing little or no fat
lean meat
2
: lacking richness or fullness
a lean fuel-air mixture
leanness noun

lean

4 of 4 noun
: the part of meat that consists mainly of fat-free muscle

Biographical Definition

Lean

biographical name

Sir David 1908–1991 British film director

More from Merriam-Webster on lean

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