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straw

Syllabification: straw
Pronunciation: /strô
 
/

Definition of straw in English:

noun

1Dried stalks of grain, used especially as fodder or as material for thatching, packing, or weaving: [as modifier]: a straw hat
More example sentences
  • This unique facility will be constructed with natural materials - plastered straw bale walls with a turf roof.
  • The directive does require farmers to supply pigs with rooting materials such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, compost or peat.
  • I am afraid I do not follow the reasoning as wheat straw thatch has been a common roof covering for hundreds of years.
1.1A pale yellow color like that of straw: [as modifier]: a dull straw color
More example sentences
  • Leaving Graham to paint a rather pleasant pale straw yellow on the guestroom walls I went off for my weekend provisioning shop.
  • In the glass it is pale straw yellow; on the nose it is softly floral.
  • With the first frost in the fall, it goes dormant and changes from green in color to a straw or pale yellow-brown.
2A single dried stalk of grain: the tramp sat chewing a straw
More example sentences
  • To tickle a horse's belly with a straw (the childhood memory), she had to select a single straw.
  • She stares at him and he looks at her and she asks, ‘Why are you chewing a straw?’
  • ‘Of course,’ Mike replied between chews on a straw held carelessly between his teeth.
2.1A stalk of grain or something similar used in drawing lots: we had to draw straws for the food we had
More example sentences
  • A group of men would draw straws to select two of their number.
  • I will draw straws to determine who will answer which of the questions.
3A thin hollow tube of paper or plastic for sucking drink from a glass or bottle.
Example sentences
  • She was straddled across a terrified studenty looking lad who was drinking from a straw in the bottle.
  • They are then asked to blow through a straw into a glass tube with a screw cap lid.
  • To keep the stems standing straight, slip them into clear plastic drinking straws or vinyl tubing.

Origin

Old English strēaw, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch stroo and German Stroh, also to strew.

More
  • An Old English word related to strew that shares an ancient ancestor with Latin sternere ‘to lay flat’. Straws crop up in various common English expressions. The person who ends up being chosen to perform an unpleasant task can be said to draw the short straw, from drawing lots by holding several straws of varying lengths with one end concealed in your hand and then inviting people to take one each. A person in danger of drowning would try to grab hold of anything to keep afloat, the source of the old proverb a drowning man will clutch at a straw, recorded in various forms since the mid 16th century. Nowadays, you are more likely to come across the abbreviated version to clutch (or grasp) at straws. Another old proverb provides the last (or final) straw, referring to a final minor difficulty or annoyance that, coming on top of a whole series of others, makes a situation unbearable. The full version is it is the last straw that breaks the camel's back. Earlier variations included the last feather breaks the horse's back, which dates back to the mid 17th century. No one is really sure what strawberries have got to do with straw. One possible explanation is that a strawberry's runners reminded people of straw strewn on floors. Or perhaps the name of the fruit refers to the small seeds scattered over its surface, which resemble tiny pieces of straw or chaff.

Phrases

grasp (or clutch or catch) at straws (or a straw)

1
Be in such a desperate situation as to resort to even the most unlikely means of salvation.
[from the proverb a drowning man will clutch at a straw]
Example sentences
  • His dreams are wrong-headed and he clutches at straws, missing the salvation that's offered him.
  • This is a case of desperate men clutching at straws.
  • When interventionists resort to that kind of argument, they are grasping at straws.

draw the short straw

2
Be the unluckiest of a group of people, especially in being chosen to perform an unpleasant task.
Example sentences
  • He drew the short straw when we ran out of room in the shelter).
  • The captain's 17-year-old cousin drew the short straw.
  • Limerick drew the short straw, now having to travel to Glasnevin to play a St Vincent's side that has been improving by leaps and bounds in recent weeks.

the last (or final) straw

3
A further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself but coming on top of a whole series of difficulties, that makes a situation unbearable: his affair was the last straw
[from the proverb the last straw breaks the (laden) camel's back]
More example sentences
  • But the recent incident, just two doors up from her house, involving a truck driver who has since admitted being over the drink drive limit, was the final straw.
  • The problem of the compensation payment, coupled with difficulties in keeping up with Inland Revenue repayments, proved the final straw for the club.
  • Shops and vehicles have been targeted in the latest series of attacks in Kew and it has proved the final straw for local people.

a straw in the wind

4
A slight hint of future developments.
Example sentences
  • It is a snapshot, a straw in the wind and should only be regarded as an unscientific measure.
  • This nastiness is just a straw in the wind, a small beginning.
  • The Senate's refusal last year to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty may have been a straw in the wind.

Derivatives

strawy

1
adjective
Example sentences
  • We passed through a narrow gate, left open, and saw an empty cattle shed, and next to it a circular pig sty, with a few great swine rooting through the strawy mud.
  • But every year, for the next 15, I hauled many loads of strawy manure out there and worked it in.
  • It was this issue that caused Martin Luther to label James ‘a right strawy book.’

Definition of straw in:

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