Meaning of STRAY in English


I. ˈstrā verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English straien, from Middle French estraier from (assumed) Vulgar Latin extragare, from Latin extra- outside + vagari to wander — more at extra- , vagary

intransitive verb


a. : to wander from company, from confinement or restraint, or from the proper limits : rove at large

leaving a gate open so that cattle stray — Agnes M. Miall

the two had strayed apart where the woods were deepest — Mary Austin

b. : to leave a natural or accustomed habitat or environment

fruit trees and strayed garden flowers deep in the woods — Bernard DeVoto

the most courteous … of eighteenth-century grands seigneurs strayed out of his age into ours — Gerald Abraham

of adults … at least one-tenth might never had strayed outside in their lives — G.G.Coulton


a. : to roam about without fixed direction or purpose : wander at random

fetid back alleys where we sometimes strayed — Marvin Barret

b. : to move in a winding course : meander

c. : to move without voluntary control or under external compulsion

my hand automatically strays towards my pocket — Sydney (Australia) Bulletin

eyes straying absently around the room



(1) : to engage temporarily or momentarily in sinful, immoral, or other than praiseworthy actions or thoughts : err

(2) : to think or utter ideas contrary to or different from an accepted dogma

those who strayed from the party line — Kurt Glaser

b. : to become distracted from an argument or chain of thought : take up a tangential point

I have strayed from my … role of historian … to indulge in a bit of prophecy — J.B.Conant

4. : to wander accidentally from a direct or chosen route : lose one's way : deviate

strayed off the road … in the dark of the moon — Mary Webb

the unit strayed across the border by mistake — Springfield (Massachusetts) Union

5. : to present a haphazard or unkempt appearance

black hair that strayed carelessly about her face — Liam O'Flaherty

a leading article (which regrettably strays from page to page among the advertisements) — Times Literary Supplement

transitive verb

1. archaic : to cause to stray

2. archaic : to roam through or over

II. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French estray, from Old French estraié, past participle of estraier to stray



(1) : a domestic animal that has left an enclosure or its proper place and company and wanders at large or is lost subject to impoundment and if unredeemed to forfeiture : estray

(2) : an animal that has strayed

the shepherd rounded up the flock's strays

(3) : an unidentified domestic animal (as a dog or an unbranded steer) wandering at large


(1) : a person or thing that strays or has strayed : a detached, isolated, or vagrant individual : straggler , waif

harbored white renegades and strays from hostile tribes — American Guide Series: Tennessee

do not own more than three books other than casual contemporary strays — J.W.Krutch

(2) : an animal or plant found outside its natural range or habitat or out of season

c. obsolete : a group of strayed animals, people, or things

hast thou seen a stray of bullocks and of heifers pass this way — Joseph Addison


[Middle English, from straien to stray]

archaic : the act or process of going astray or of strolling aimlessly

I would not from your love make such a stray — Shakespeare

3. Britain : common land or pasturage ; also : the right to allow one's stock to stray and feed thereon


a. : an electrical effect that is not produced by a transmitting station and that disturbs the reception of receiving apparatus

b. : an electric wave or current causing a stray — compare atmospherics

5. : an unexpected formation encountered in drilling an oil or gas well

III. adjective

Etymology: stray (II)


a. : escaped from confinement, supervision, or restraint or from a group of its kind

stray cow

stray dog

stray child

b. : having been lost, misplaced, or forgotten

the other fellows take handkerchiefs home and stray coats sometimes — Janet Frame

2. : wandering lost, aimless, or isolated from the normal or principal body, habitat, or course

details picked up from stray survivors — John Mason Brown

account for every stray traveller in the mountains — Owen Wister

a stray enemy group may at any time swoop down — Ed Cunningham


a. : occurring or appearing sporadically or at random

stray acquaintances met with in hotel rooms and aeroplanes — Geographical Journal

the white dogwood were stray handfuls of confetti in the young green — Horace Sutton

b. : touched upon or met with only in passing or in haste : occasional , incidental

a series of scenes that (except for stray ones) register honestly — John Kerry

one or two stray expressions that have evaded revision — Times Literary Supplement

a stray weekly hour of hygiene — Hortense Calisher

c. : scattered about

on our knees retrieving stray cigarettes — A. Conan Doyle

collecting stray hairs from the farm horses' tails — W.P.Smith

stray members of the congregation moved by the spirit may be prophesying in unknown tongues — W.L.Sperry

4. : not serving any useful purpose : unwanted

necessarily results in serious errors when stray light … is not absorbed by the optical system — H.A.Stahl

insulate them … so that no stray current is introduced into the circuit — A.C.Morrison

5. : written hastily or thoughtlessly and published in obscure or ephemeral journals

wrote only one complete novel and a few stray pieces and fragments — Henri Peyre

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.