Definition of stretch in English:

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Pronunciation: /strɛtʃ/


[no object]
1(Of something soft or elastic) be made or be capable of being made longer or wider without tearing or breaking: my jumper stretched in the wash rubber will stretch easily when pulled
More example sentences
  • Soft, springy materials like rubber and skin don't tear easily because they stretch before breaking apart.
  • Softer metals tend to stretch more easily, which explains the different factors in the formulas for different metals.
  • If you replace your laces with elastic you will be able to tie them up before you slip your feet into them; the elastic will stretch to enable your foot to go in but will still be tight enough to hold your shoes on comfortably.
be elastic, be stretchy, be stretchable, be tensile
1.1 [with object] Cause (something) to become longer or wider by pulling it: stretch the elastic small squares of canvas were stretched over the bamboo frame
More example sentences
  • The fabric mask is stretched over the face and pressed firmly in place.
  • Then carpet is stretched over the top of the metal and tucked under the side of the Z-bar that is not secured.
  • The second balloon is stretched over the first balloon to seal in the flour.
pull, pull out, draw out, extend, lengthen, elongate;
expand, distend
2Straighten or extend one’s body or a part of one’s body to its full length, typically so as to tighten one’s muscles or in order to reach something: the cat yawned and stretched [with object]: I stretched out a weary arm to turn on my radio stretching my cramped legs we lay stretched out on the sand
More example sentences
  • I got up from the rather cramped car and stretched out my muscles to give them some air.
  • She stretched out her body, her muscles loosening up from the long flight of last night.
  • This area was cooler with more grass than plain dirt, making me want to stretch out on the soft carpet and stare at the stars.
extend, straighten, straighten out, unbend
lie down, recline, lean back, be recumbent, be prostrate, be prone, sprawl, drape oneself, lounge, loll
3 [no object, with adverbial] Extend or spread over an area or period of time: the beach stretches for over four miles the long hours of night stretched ahead of her
More example sentences
  • Inside the gate a carpet of bricks, plaster, glass, wood and office paper stretched around 40 feet to a crater which marked the epicentre of the explosion.
  • I was puzzled about how to eat the long and large segment of pig's bone positioned in the middle of the plate in front of me with a straw stretching into it.
  • By 1930, no wetland and few trees were left in the region, and in many counties, cotton stretched from horizon to horizon.
extend, spread, continue, range, unfold, unroll, be unbroken;
cover, span
3.1Last or cause to last longer than expected: [no object]: her nap had stretched to two hours [with object]: stretch your weekend into a mini summer vacation
More example sentences
  • The precautionary effort was expected to stretch into this week.
  • There are also plans to obtain extended drinking hours and a dance licence, so the weekend stretches out just that little bit longer.
  • Stein's interim stint, expected to last two months, stretched to a year.
prolong, lengthen, make longer, extend, extend the duration of, draw out, spin out, protract
3.2 [no object] (Of finances or resources) be sufficient or adequate for a certain purpose: my budget won’t stretch to a weekend at a health farm
More example sentences
  • Sadly, finances would not stretch to pay for her two children, Emma, 15, and Daniel, 13, and Paul's three grown-up children to go too.
  • ‘I don't know if the club's finances will stretch to allow me to keep two keepers on the go,’ admitted the manager.
  • It's often said that resources won't stretch to having a Garda on every street corner to maintain law and order.
be sufficient for, be enough for, cover, reach to;
afford, have the money for
4 [with object] Make great demands on the capacity or resources of: the cost of the court case has stretched their finances to the limit
More example sentences
  • Now, precious resources are being stretched even further.
  • But the real issue is that important resources are being stretched.
  • And police resources could be further stretched if there is a repeat of last year's illegal rave at Marloes on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
put a strain on, put great demands on, overtax, overextend, be too much for;
drain, sap
4.1Cause (someone) to make maximum use of their talents or abilities: it’s too easy—it doesn’t stretch me
More example sentences
  • Considered the toughest event, the obstacle course is a test to the cadet's stamina and ability to stretch him beyond his limits.
  • However, the extent to which this exercise stretches me personally is a constant surprise.
  • It stretched me as a person and opened my mind to many new parts of myself.
4.2 informal Adapt or extend the scope of (something) in a way that exceeds a reasonable or acceptable limit: to describe her as sweet would be stretching it a bit
More example sentences
  • You know, nothing hurts the truth like stretching it, and he stretched it just a lot.
  • Now that's stretching it a bit, don't you agree?
  • If I told you that, I would be stretching it a bit.
bend, strain, distort;
exaggerate, overstate, embellish, overdraw
informal lay it on thick


1An act of stretching one’s limbs or body: I got up and had a stretch
More example sentences
  • Full body stretches should also be done before using the ball.
  • Relax the pectoral muscle and deepen the chest stretch by turning the body away from the arm for another count of 15 seconds.
  • The body stretches are often held for longer than those that might be employed by a shiatsu practitioner or massage therapist.
reach out, hold out, put out, extend, outstretch, thrust out, stick out;
proffer, offer
literary outreach
1.1 [mass noun] The fact or condition of a muscle being stretched: she could feel the stretch and pull of the muscles in her legs
More example sentences
  • Muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs are receptor organs found inside skeletal muscle, which are stimulated by stretch of the muscle or tension on the tendon.
  • The essential clinical feature of compartment syndrome in conscious patients is severe pain out of proportion to the injury, aggravated by passive muscle stretch.
  • Stimulation of these receptors by stretch or chemical agents triggers impulses along nonmyelinated vagal afferents.
1.2 [mass noun, usually as modifier] The capacity of a material or garment to stretch or be stretched; elasticity: stretch jeans
More example sentences
  • A picture of a giraffe or a lion on quality stretch cotton material will also be an ideal choice.
  • These stretch materials make the shorts fit perfectly, offer great support and look great too.
  • The slim cut stretch denim jeans envelop the contour of the female form like a second skin, giving a slim and seductive outline to the hip and legs.
stretchy, stretchable, elastic, elasticated
1.3 informal A difficult or demanding task: it was a stretch for me to come up with the rent
More example sentences
  • Ensuring that her children are fed properly is a stretch.
  • It has been a huge stretch for my progressive little heart and soul.
  • I think any role is a balance between a stretch and knowing that you can do it.
2A continuous area or expanse of land or water: a treacherous stretch of road
More example sentences
  • Most of the game is set in open expanses of water framed by nondescript stretches of land and changing weather conditions.
  • But what of the people it might displace, areas of fertile land that might become stretches of wasteland and even the water wars that might ensue?
  • She has sailed round Cape Horn, one of the most treacherous stretches of water in the world, on a three-mast wooden ship.
expanse, area, tract, belt, sweep, extent, spread, reach;
length, distance
2.1A continuous period of time: long stretches of time
More example sentences
  • It'll be my first break in ten months - the longest stretch between holidays for years - and I can't wait.
  • The substitutions aside, the siege of the England goal continues with long stretches of French possession interrupted by the briefest of respites.
  • Toronto continued their recent stretch of playing good ball by ending Orlando's three-game win streak with a convincing victory.
period, time, spell, term, run, stint, session;
tour of duty, shift
2.2 informal A period of time spent in prison: a four-year stretch for tax fraud
More example sentences
  • Its leaders, who were sentenced to long stretches in prison, declared the dissolution of the organisation.
  • Many of those who tuck guns in their waistbands and shoot up their neighborhoods hardly flinch at the prospect of doing a long stretch in prison if caught.
  • But it is Ted who ends up doing a stretch in prison.
prison sentence, sentence, prison term
North American informal rap
2.3chiefly North American A straight part of a racetrack, typically the home straight: he made a promising start, but faded down the stretch
More example sentences
  • When the horses turn the final stretch, the spectators become more animated.
  • Once he switched to his right lead in the stretch, I knew he was home.
  • The four-year-old colt drove clear while opening a three-length lead entering the stretch.
2.4 Sailing The distance covered on one tack.
Example sentences
  • Saturday’s qualifying was a new experience for me as I blew the minute pin on the back stretch and had to cut the field and come back around the entire course.
  • In the front stretch, directly in front of the thousand of rabid race fans in attendance, Fox’s Pracer blew over coming down back on the bottom in an impressive 360 degree flip.
3 informal A stretch limo: a chauffeur-driven stretch
More example sentences
  • They will arrive in stretch limousines and helicopters.
  • Police believe she may have heard thieves trying to break into two high-value cars, including a stretch limousine belonging to her husband, outside their house in Wembley.
  • A chance to be chauffeur driven in a stretch limousine to a romantic dinner for two is one of the lots on offer at an auction during the Mayor of Bolton's annual dinner and cabaret.



at full stretch

With a part of one’s body fully extended: at the wheel was a short figure, arms at full stretch
More example sentences
  • In the first match in Bombay, Jonty Rhodes effected two run-outs and took three catches, one of which was taken at full stretch, body at least four feet off the ground.
  • I turned around and saw another guard coming towards me with his arms at full stretch.
  • The rower drops the oar into the water coiled forward with his arms at full stretch.
1.1Using the maximum amount of one’s resources or energy: increased export business kept our production plants at full stretch
More example sentences
  • ‘The Environment Agency's resources are working at full stretch and due to an oversight the sluice was not closed,’ said a spokesman.
  • Arsenal, at their leisure, mesmerised Charlton at full stretch.
  • The decision is widely seen as having dealt a serious blow to the joint bid by the Scottish and Irish football associations, which between them are at full stretch to deliver the eight suitable stadiums required to host the tournament.

at a stretch

1In one continuous period: I often had to work for over twenty hours at a stretch
More example sentences
  • There is the possibility of continuous rain lashing the city for 10 hours or more at a stretch at least twice during this period.
  • Nobody noticed that I didn't eat for eighteen or twenty hours at a stretch.
  • At two points during my mission, I will wear blood pressure monitors on my arm and my fingers for twenty-four hours at a stretch.
2Only with difficulty or in extreme circumstances: it is aimed at one age group, adults, or, at a stretch, business studies students
More example sentences
  • Mr Hoult said that at a stretch, local authorities could cope with a disaster on the scale of Lockerbie.
  • Now, had it not been, we would have done one of three things: moved somewhere else with a better primary, fiddled the system to get her into a good school in a different catchment area or, at a stretch, gone private.
  • Its flexibility extends to its passengers too: it is capable of seating three people comfortably and four at a stretch, and is intended to make the point that it is wasteful to own a larger car when a smaller one will do.

by no (or not by any) stretch of the imagination

Used to emphasize that something is definitely not the case: by no stretch of the imagination could Carl ever be called good-looking
More example sentences
  • We haven't seen the best of him, not by any stretch of the imagination, because he has still to get more match fitness and a lot more comfortable.
  • It wasn't perfect, of course - not by any stretch of the imagination.
  • Wood dismissed this notion when he wrote of Dala, ‘Though a large fire, it was circumscribed, and by no stretch of the imagination could it be associated with a bush fire.’

stretch one's legs

Go for a short walk after sitting in one place for some time: there is an hour’s stop in Sudbury for everyone to stretch their legs
More example sentences
  • What the younger lot should remember is that there is no question of sitting up and stretching your legs at any point of time.
  • While trying to make small talk, I watch as he stretches his legs, walking between window and chair, clutching a pack of cigarettes.
  • At the end of the day, I'd get off the bus a couple of stops early and walk home just to stretch my legs.
go for a walk, take a walk, go for a stroll, walk, stroll, move about, promenade, get some exercise, get some air, take the air

stretch a point

Allow or do something not usually acceptable: since your daughter is one of my regular patients, I’m stretching a point
More example sentences
  • My companion's pan-fried fillet of wild sea bass with herb vermicelli and confit tomato jus seemed to pass muster, though I suspect describing it as ‘wild’ was stretching a point.
  • Certainly, young players need far more and better conditioning than club rugby can ever offer them, but to claim that the pinnacle of the club game in Scotland is irrelevant to the professional ranks seems to be stretching a point.
  • While it would be stretching a point to say the government is benefiting from a ‘feelgood factor’, there is no ‘feelbad factor’ either.

stretch one's wings

see wing.



Pronunciation: /strɛtʃəˈbɪlɪti/
Example sentences
  • Spandex adds stretchability, provides shape retention, minimizes wrinkling and adds resiliency to a fabric.
  • The total elongation and work hardening exponent are measures of the biaxial stretchability of sheet, and these parameters decrease as the yield strength of the sheet steel increases.
  • Polyurethane fibers are lightweight and have a high degree of stretchability which makes them good for applications like swimsuits and other athletic apparel.


Example sentences
  • They are fleece-fronted with a wind-breaking layer across the chest, but stretchable, sweat-wicking fabric across the back and shoulders.
  • It's basically a tube made out of some stretchable material and is worn on the torso.
  • Synthetic elastic fibres and modern machine knitting have latterly permitted stretchable skin-tight garments that mould to the body without tailoring, fastening, or belting.


Old English streccan, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch strekken and German strecken. The noun dates from the late 16th century.

  • straight from Middle English:

    The word straight is the old past form of Old English stretch, and originally meant ‘extended at full length’. The sense relating to an alcoholic drink, ‘undiluted’, is the American equivalent of neat and dates from the middle of the 19th century. The straight and narrow is the honest and morally acceptable way of living. The earliest example of this expression was the longer the straight and narrow path (or way). It arose through a misunderstanding of the meaning of a word in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew: ‘Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’. Strait (Late Middle English) here simply means ‘narrow’, from the same source as strict, a sense which only really survives today in the noun meaning ‘a narrow passage of water connecting two seas’, as in the Straits of Gibraltar. The confusion probably came about because crooked, the opposite of straight, had long been used to mean ‘dishonest’.

Words that rhyme with stretch

etch, fetch, ketch, kvetch, lech, outstretch, retch, sketch, vetch, wretch

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: stretch

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