There are 2 main definitions of strain in English:

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strain 1

Line breaks: strain
Pronunciation: /streɪn/


1 [with object] Force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make an unusually great effort: I stopped and listened, straining my ears for any sound
More example sentences
  • Anyone who forgot to bring the radio had to stand or strain themselves to listen to the game on somebody else's radio.
  • He cries weakly, the effort clearly straining his feeble body.
  • When one strained oneself to listen to the speaker one could make out that some important male writers were speaking in generalities.
1.1 [no object] Make an unusually great effort: his voice was so quiet that I had to strain to hear it
More example sentences
  • She whispered so softly that Heart had to strain to hear.
  • Because I was taking notes and straining to hear what was being said on the tape, I didn't necessarily realise what was being said.
  • Be quiet and excuse me; I am straining to hear a conversation and you are making it difficult for me to catch all of it.
struggle, labour, toil, make a supreme effort, make every effort, spare no effort, strain every nerve, try very hard, strive, break one's back, push/drive oneself to the limit, do one's best
informal pull out all the stops, go all out, give it one's all, bend/lean over backwards, give it one's best shot, bust a gut, break one's neck, do one's damnedest, kill oneself
Australian informal go for the doctor
1.2Injure (a limb, muscle, or organ) by overexerting it: on cold days you are more likely to strain a muscle glare from the screen can strain your eyes
More example sentences
  • I need to have wheels installed on this thing, she thought, straining her arm muscles and knocking her knees against its bulk as she walked.
  • Aberfeldie last year learned the cost of attacking through one player when Minton-Connell strained his thigh muscle in the warm-up before the grand final.
  • But because Gandy has favored the muscle, it has partially torn his right biceps and strained another muscle.
injure, hurt, damage, impair;
pull, wrench, tear, twist, sprain, rick, crick
1.3Make severe or excessive demands on: he strained her tolerance to the limit
More example sentences
  • The Habsburg Monarchy was strained by the demands of different nationalities for autonomy.
  • In the era of the Internet, the efficacy of the name suppression orders was always going to be severely strained, but some online publishers took the issue seriously.
  • Relations between Chicago and Britain have been severely strained by the announcement, coming as it does weeks before an election.
overtax, overwork, overburden, overextend, overreach, overtask, make too many demands on, run/work oneself into the ground, exert excessively, drive too far, exert to the limit, push to the limit;
exhaust, wear out, fatigue, tire, tax;
overdo it, work too hard
informal knacker, knock oneself out
make severe demands on, make excessive demands on, overtax, be too much for;
exceed the limits of, drain, sap, use up, exceed the range/scope of, overstep;
test, tax, put a strain on, fray
1.4 [no object] Pull or push forcibly at something: the bear strained at the chain around its neck his stomach was swollen, straining against the thin shirt
More example sentences
  • It uses the pressure points on the shih-tzu's nose and head to apply pressure which stops the shih-tzu from pulling, jumping and straining against the leash.
  • No matter how he twisted and pulled, straining against the straps, he could not free himself.
  • Fenix jerked, straining against the cord - he wanted to murder the man!
pull, tug, heave, haul, jerk;
informal yank
1.5Stretch (something) tightly: the barbed wire fence was strained to posts six feet high
More example sentences
  • For the most part the structure is strained tightly together, and decorated, by spidery cross braces.
  • During these works transmitting took place with the help of an antenna which was strained between the other tower and a small wood mast.
  • It originally used as transmitting antenna a cage aerial, which was strained between two 60 meters tall wood towers.
1.6 archaic Embrace (someone) tightly: she strained the infant to her bosom again
More example sentences
  • When she blinked, she saw the boy fall down and the mother straining him and beating at him.
  • I felt his arms straining me, could hear his laughter near me, could smell his stench.
2 [with object] Pour (a mainly liquid substance) through a porous or perforated device or material in order to separate out any solid matter: strain the custard into a bowl
More example sentences
  • Slowly strain the butter through a fine sieve into a clean pan, leaving the sediment behind.
  • To finish, strain the infused milk into a clean saucepan, add the breadcrumbs and whisk over a medium heat for two to three minutes until thickened.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes, leave to cool and then strain the mixture through a sieve into a large jug.
2.1Cause liquid to drain off (food which has been boiled, soaked, or canned) by using a porous or perforated device: she turned to the sink to strain the noodles
More example sentences
  • Right whales are large baleen whales, meaning that instead of teeth they have bonelike plates, which they use to strain food from large gulps of water.
  • Simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat and strain all ingredients.
  • When you're ready to start cooking, strain the beef, reserving the marinade and the other ingredients.
sieve, sift, filter, screen, riddle, separate;
rare filtrate, griddle
2.2Drain (liquid) off food by using a porous or perforated device: strain off the surplus fat
More example sentences
  • This is the most successful part of the recipe. You strain the mussel liquid into a bowl, wipe out your pot, then re-add the liquid and bring it to a boil.
  • It is at this point that you would want to strain off the residual liquid.
  • After about three weeks strain off the liquid and water it around the roots of the plants.


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1A force tending to pull or stretch something to an extreme or damaging degree: the usual type of chair puts an enormous strain on the spine [mass noun]: aluminium may bend under strain
More example sentences
  • The structure of the ligamenta flava enables them to be stretched to high strains without damage.
  • In addition to the pull of Jupiter's gravity, Io also feels the strain from the gravitational fields of Jupiter's other large moons.
  • What is the impact of stresses and strains from external forces on our practice field?
tension, tightness, tautness, shear, distension
rare tensity
1.1An injury to a part of the body caused by overexertion: he has a slight groin strain
More example sentences
  • The new automobile insurance system includes a limit of $4,000 on pain and suffering awards for a minor injury such as a strain, sprain or minor whiplash.
  • The most common snow injuries are strains, sprains and fractures.
  • Chronic knee injuries include things like strains, sprains and tendinitis.
sprain, wrench, twist, rick
1.2 Physics The magnitude of a deformation, equal to the change in the dimension of a deformed object divided by its original dimension.
Example sentences
  • At relatively low shear strains, deformation is apparent from the slight deformation of strain markers, such as the overturning of ice-wedge casts.
  • In this paper we present new quantitative data on strain, deformation temperatures and vorticity of flow at the top of the Greater Himalayan Slab.
  • The c-maximum fabric normal to foliation is typical of calcite rocks deformed experimentally to high strains in simple shear.
2A severe or excessive demand on the strength, resources, or abilities of someone or something: the accusations put a strain on relations between the two countries [mass noun]: she’s under considerable strain
More example sentences
  • This modification, while it suits the owner perfectly, put a strain on my ability to shoot small 25 yard groups.
  • It is this population boom that has put a strain on the land resource in Zambia creating a breeding ground for desertification.
  • Overweight and obese people are at far greater risk of a number of illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease, and an ever fatter population will put a strain on healthcare resources.
pressure, demands, burdens, exertions;
stress, tension
informal hassle
2.1 [mass noun] A state of tension or exhaustion resulting from severe demands on one’s strength or resources: the telltale signs of nervous strain
More example sentences
  • Exhaustion, strain and tension are what hit you.
  • This constant state of alert places high tension and strain on staff.
  • As the first week passed by so did some strain and tension on the couple's relationship.
stress, tension, nervous tension, anxiety;
exhaustion, fatigue, tiredness, weariness, pressure of work, overwork, duress
3 (usually strains) The sound of a piece of music: the distant strains of the brass band grew louder
More example sentences
  • Baraka here is particularly interested in the differing timbres or tones that the two strains of music produced.
  • In the Kiev Sports Palace gymnasium I watched Larissa go through her paces to the strains of music by Tchaikovsky.
  • A fan turns slowly overhead, keeping time with the strains of Latino music.
sound, music;
melody, tune, air, song


at (full) strain
archaic Using the utmost effort.
Example sentences
  • Recovery of stored electrochemical energy should enable moderate efficiencies to be achieved even at full strain.
  • Operating an actuator of stack height at half its potential strain, compared to operating a stack of height at full strain, reduces power consumption by 50%.
  • The manager finds himself on-board a 24-foot boat, careening into a wave-whipping southeast wind, sailing full strain.
strain every nerve
see nerve.
strain at the leash
see leash.


Example sentences
  • Soft bodies are manufactured from strainable cotton or velours material and can be washed off damp.
  • The pure aluminium is highly strainable and it induces a particularised texture, common to the material and to the used forming process.
  • It's also strainable for quick clean-up on the cage floor.


Middle English (as a verb): from Old French estreindre, from Latin stringere 'draw tight'. Current senses of the noun arose in the mid 16th century.

Words that rhyme with strain

abstain, appertain, arcane, arraign, ascertain, attain, Bahrain, bane, blain, brain, Braine, Cain, Caine, campaign, cane, cinquain, chain, champagne, champaign, Champlain, Charmaine, chicane, chow mein, cocaine, Coleraine, Coltrane, complain, constrain, contain, crane, Dane, deign, demesne, demi-mondaine, detain, disdain, domain, domaine, drain, Duane, Dwane, Elaine, entertain, entrain, explain, fain, fane, feign, gain, Germaine, germane, grain, humane, Hussein, inane, Jain, Jane, Jermaine, Kane, La Fontaine, lain, lane, legerdemain, Lorraine, main, Maine, maintain, mane, mise en scène, Montaigne, moraine, mundane, obtain, ordain, Paine, pane, pertain, plain, plane, Port-of-Spain, profane, rain, Raine, refrain, reign, rein, retain, romaine, sane, Seine, Shane, Sinn Fein, skein, slain, Spain, Spillane, sprain, stain, sustain, swain, terrain, thane, train, twain, Ujjain, Ukraine, underlain, urbane, vain, vane, vein, Verlaine, vicereine, wain, wane, Wayne
Definition of strain in:
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There are 2 main definitions of strain in English:

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strain 2 Line breaks: strain
Pronunciation: /streɪn/


1A particular breed, stock, or variety of an animal or plant.
Example sentences
  • Australia has been trying to breed better strains of plants and animals for ever.
  • Individual species are also becoming standardized, experts say, with cultivated strains of animals and plants ousting local varieties.
  • A survey of 13 domestic breeds and 3 inbred strains was carried out.
variety, kind, type, sort;
breed, genus
1.1A natural or cultured variety of a microorganism with a distinct form, biochemistry, or virulence.
Example sentences
  • Lesprit and coworkers investigated the impact of this system by comparing the virulence of two bacterial strains in a rat model of acute pneumonia.
  • Prevnar protects against seven strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria.
  • When she went to hospital to have the wound examined she was informed that she was infected with a strain of staph bacteria, similar to the MRSA superbug.
1.2A variety of something abstract: a strain of feminist thought
More example sentences
  • There is a strain of feminism that encourages women to behave as if we have arrived in some feminist Utopia where rape is impossible.
  • What about the strain of radical feminism in the current government and the attitudes they create?
  • There's a strain of feminism that comes out of the women's health movement of the seventies that is deeply suspicious of reproductive technology.
element, strand, streak, vein, note, trace, touch, dash, tinge, suggestion, hint, suspicion;
French soupçon
2A particular tendency as part of a person’s character: there was a powerful strain of insanity on her mother’s side of the family
More example sentences
  • These are two warring but important strains to the national character, at tension with each other.
  • Though not slapstick or of the knee-slapping variety, Hamer is droll and often wickedly subtle in his deadly strain of humour.
  • Tense, haunted and melancholy, the composer's dark vision was only relieved by a mordant strain of humour.
tendency to, susceptibility to, propensity to, proneness to, proclivity to, inclination to;
trait, characteristic, disposition


Old English strīon 'acquisition, gain', of Germanic origin; related to Latin struere 'to build up'.

Definition of strain in:
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