Meaning of STRAIN in English


I. strain 1 W3 /streɪn/ BrE AmE noun

[ Sense 1-4: Date: 1500-1600 ; Origin: ⇨ ↑ strain 2 ]

[ Sense 5-8: Language: Old English ; Origin: streon 'gain' ]

1 . WORRY [uncountable and countable] worry that is caused by having to deal with a problem or work too hard over a long period of time ⇨ stress :

I couldn’t look after him any more; the strain was too much for me.

Did you find the job a strain?

the stresses and strains of police life

strain for

The trial has been a terrible strain for both of us.

strain on

It’s quite a strain on me when he’s drinking heavily.

put/place a strain on somebody

The long working hours put a severe strain on employees.

under (a) strain

I know you’ve been under a lot of strain lately.

crack/collapse/buckle etc under the strain (=become unable to deal with a problem or work)

I could see that she was beginning to crack under the strain.

2 . DIFFICULTY [uncountable and countable] a difficulty or problem that is caused when a person, relationship, organization, or system has too much to do or too many problems to deal with

strain on

The dry summer has further increased the strain on water resources.

put/place (a) strain on something

The flu epidemic has put a huge strain on the health service.

strain in

The attack has led to strains in the relationship between the two countries.

under (a) strain

His marriage was under strain.

break/crack/collapse etc under the strain

The party split under the strain.

3 . FORCE [uncountable] a situation in which something is being pulled or pushed, or is holding weight, and so might break or become damaged

strain on

The strain on the cables supporting the bridge is enormous.

put/place (a) strain on something

Some of these exercises put too much strain on the back muscles.

These four posts take the strain of the whole structure.

break/snap/collapse etc under the strain

The rope snapped under the strain.

4 . INJURY [uncountable and countable] an injury to a muscle or part of your body that is caused by using it too much:

Long hours working at a computer can cause eye strain.

The goalkeeper is still out of action with a knee strain.

5 . PLANT/ANIMAL [countable] a type of animal, plant, or disease

strain of

different strains of wheat

a new strain of the flu virus

6 . QUALITY [singular] a particular quality which people have, especially one that is passed from parents to children

strain of

There’s a strain of madness in his family.

7 . WAY OF SAYING SOMETHING [singular] formal an amount of a feeling that you can see in the way someone speaks, writes, paints etc:

a strain of bitterness in Young’s later work

8 . strains of something literary the sound of music being played:

We sipped wine to the strains of Beethoven.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1 & 2)

■ adjectives

▪ great/considerable/severe strain

The country’s health system is under great strain.

▪ a terrible strain

It’s been a terrible strain.

▪ an intolerable strain (=too great to bear)

The cost of these wars put an intolerable strain on the economy.

▪ undue strain (=too much strain)

How much can you invest without putting any undue strain on your finances?

▪ emotional strain

She has been suffering from considerable emotional strain.

▪ financial strain

This welfare program has eased the financial strain of raising children alone.

■ verbs

▪ put/place (a) strain on somebody/something

Living with my parents put quite a strain on our marriage.

▪ crack/collapse/buckle etc under the strain (=become unable to continue normally because of the strain)

They are worried that the court system might collapse under the strain.

▪ ease the strain (=make it less)

You can do much to ease the strain of the situation for her.

■ phrases

▪ be under (a) strain

Claudia could see that he was under considerable strain.

▪ stresses and strains

Holidays help people to cope with the stresses and strains of life.

• • •


▪ injury damage to part of your body caused by an accident or an attack:

The passengers were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

▪ wound an injury, especially a deep cut in your skin made by a knife, bullet, or bomb:

He died of a gunshot wound to the head.

▪ cut a small injury made when a sharp object cuts your skin:

Blood was running from a cut on his chin.

▪ bruise a dark mark on your skin that you get when you fall or get hit:

Jack often comes home from playing rugby covered in bruises.

▪ graze/scrape a small injury that marks your skin or breaks the surface slightly:

She fell off her bike and got a few grazes on her legs and knees.

▪ gash a long deep cut:

He had a deep gash across his forehead.

▪ bump an area of skin that is swollen because you have hit it against something:

How did you get that bump on your head?

▪ sprain an injury to your ↑ ankle , ↑ wrist , knee etc, caused by suddenly twisting it:

It’s a slight sprain – you should rest your ankle for a week.

▪ strain an injury to a muscle caused by stretching it or using it too much:

a muscle strain in his neck

▪ fracture a crack or broken part in a bone:

a hip fracture

II. strain 2 BrE AmE verb

[ Date: 1300-1400 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: estraindre , from Latin stringere ; ⇨ ↑ stringent ]

1 . INJURE [transitive] to injure a muscle or part of your body by using it too much or making it work too hard:

I’ve strained a muscle in my leg

You’ll strain your eyes trying to read in this light.

2 . EFFORT [intransitive and transitive] to try very hard to do something using all your strength or ability

strain (something) to do something

She was straining to keep her head above the water.

strain for

Bill choked and gasped, straining for air.

strain your ears/eyes (=try very hard to hear or see)

I strained my ears, listening for any sound in the silence of the cave.

3 . LIQUID [transitive] to separate solid things from a liquid by pouring the mixture through something with very small holes in it ⇨ sieve :

She strained the pasta.

4 . DIFFICULTY [transitive] to cause difficulties for something by making too much work or too many problems which it cannot deal with easily:

The increased costs will certainly strain our finances.

The incident has strained relations between the two countries.

I felt that my patience was being strained to the limit.

5 . PULL/PUSH [intransitive] to pull hard at something or push hard against something

strain against

Buddy’s huge gut strained against the buttons on his shirt.

strain at

a dog straining at its lead

6 . strain every nerve to try as hard as possible to do something:

He was straining every nerve to impress the judges.

7 . be straining at the leash to be eager to be allowed to do something:

There are 30,000 troops in the area, all straining at the leash.

8 . not strain yourself to not work too hard or do too much physical activity – often used in an ↑ ironic way:

Don’t strain yourself.

• • •


■ to injure yourself or someone else

▪ hurt to damage part of your body, or someone else’s body:

She slipped on the ice and hurt herself badly.


Be careful you don’t hurt anyone with that knife.

▪ injure to hurt yourself quite severely, or to be hurt in an accident or fighting:

One of our players has injured his leg, and will be out of the game for weeks.


Four people have been seriously injured on the Arizona highway.

▪ wound to deliberately hurt someone using a weapon such as a knife or gun:

The gunmen shot and killed twelve people and wounded three others.

▪ maim /meɪm/ [usually passive] to hurt someone very severely, especially so that they lose an arm, leg etc, often as the result of an explosion:

In countries where there are landmines, people are killed and maimed daily.

▪ break to hurt a part of your body by breaking a bone in it:

The X-ray showed that I had broken my wrist.

▪ bruise to hurt a part of your body when you fall on it or hit it, causing a dark mark to appear on your skin:

Cathy fell off her bike and bruised her legs badly.

▪ sprain/twist to hurt your knee, wrist, shoulder etc by suddenly twisting it while you are moving:

I jumped down from the wall and landed awkwardly, spraining my ankle.

▪ strain/pull to hurt one of your muscles by stretching it or using it too much:

When you are lifting heavy loads, be careful not to strain a back muscle.

▪ dislocate to damage a joint in your body in a way that moves the two parts of the joint out of their normal position:

Our best batsman dislocated his shoulder during training.

▪ paralyse [usually passive] to make someone lose the ability to move part or all of their body:

A climbing accident had left him paralysed from the chest down.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.