Meaning of “strain” in the English Dictionary

"strain" in British English

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uk /streɪn/ us /streɪn/

strain noun (PRESSURE)

B2 [ C usually singular or U ] a force or influence that stretches, pulls, or puts pressure on something, sometimes causing damage:

The hurricane put such a strain on the bridge that it collapsed.
As you get older, excess weight puts a lot of strain on the heart.
Their constant arguments were putting a strain on their marriage.
The recent decline in the dollar has put a bigger strain on the economic system.
Migration into the cities is putting a strain on already stretched resources.

C2 [ C ] an injury to a muscle or similar soft part of the body caused by using that part too much:

a groin/hamstring strain
See also

B2 [ C or U ] something that makes you feel nervous and worried:

She's a lot better than she was but she's still not ready to face the stresses and strains of a job.
He's been under a lot of strain recently.

More examples

  • a groin strain
  • His muscles knotted with the strain.
  • Jogging puts a lot of strain on the knees.
  • The strain must have been enormous but she bore it well.
  • The events of the last few weeks have put a real strain on him.

strain noun (TYPE)

[ C ] a particular type or quality:

A strain of puritanism runs through all her work.

[ C ] an animal or plant from a particular group whose characteristics are different in some way from others of the same group:

Scientists have discovered a new strain of the virus which is much more dangerous.


uk /streɪn/ us /streɪn/

strain verb (PRESSURE)

B2 [ I or T ] to become stretched or to experience pressure, or to make something do or experience this:

I've put on such a lot of weight recently - this dress is straining at the seams.
I strained a muscle in my back playing squash.
Don't watch TV in the dark - you'll strain your eyes!
[ + to infinitive ] figurative I really had to strain (= try very hard) to reach those top notes.
figurative I was straining (my ears) (= listening hard) to hear what they were saying.

(Definition of “strain” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"strain" in American English

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us /streɪn/

strain noun (WORRY)

[ C/U ] something that causes anxiety, worry, or difficulty:

[ U ] Loss of funding has put a lot of strain on the day-care center.
[ C ] The benefits of keeping our daughter at home make the strains of having only one income worthwhile.

strain noun (PRESSURE)

[ U ] physical pressure:

The bookcase collapsed under the strain.

strain noun (INJURY)

[ C ] an injury caused by working the muscles too hard:

Running puts a strain on your heart.

strain noun (DIFFERENT TYPE)

[ C ] an animal or plant that is only slightly different from other animals or plants of the same type:

A new strain of the virus has been found.

[ C ] A strain is also a quality that gives something a particular character:

There has long been a populist strain in American politics.

[ C ] A strain is also a particular sound:

Strains of piano music drifted across the room.


us /streɪn/

strain verb (SEPARATE)

[ I/T ] to separate solid pieces from a liquid by pouring it through a utensil with small holes at the bottom of it or through a cloth:

[ T ] Strain the liquid and discard the vegetables.

strain verb (CAUSE WORRY)

[ T ] to cause anxiety or problems:

This relationship has been strained almost to the breaking point.
These extra costs have strained our financial resources.

strain verb (CREATE PRESSURE)

[ I ] to create pressure or use effort:

The dog strained at the leash, pulling his master along.
[ + to infinitive ] I had to strain to hear the audio.

strain verb (CAUSE INJURY)

[ T ] to cause an injury by working the muscles too hard:

I strained my back carrying those boxes.

(Definition of “strain” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)