Meaning of “stretch” in the English Dictionary

"stretch" in British English

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uk /stretʃ/ us /stretʃ/

stretch verb (REACH)

B2 [ T usually + adv/prep ] to cause something to reach, often as far as possible, in a particular direction:

I tripped on a piece of wire that someone had stretched across the path.
She stretched out her hand and helped him from his chair.

B2 [ I ] to make your body or your arms and legs straight so that they are as long as possible, in order to exercise the joints (= place where two bones are connected) after you have been in the same place or position for a long time:

"I'm so tired," she said, yawning and stretching.
It's a good idea to stretch before you do vigorous exercise.

More examples

  • The plastic cover was stretched tight across the tank.
  • I stretched out and listened to the sound of the rushing stream.
  • The cat was stretching in front of the fire.
  • Yoga is a great way to stretch your body.
  • I get up and walk around every half hour just to stretch my legs.

stretch verb (SPREAD)

C2 [ I usually + adv/prep ] to spread over a large area or distance:

A huge cloud of dense smoke stretched across the horizon.
The Andes stretch for 7,250 km along the west coast of South America.
Unsettled weather will stretch from the middle Mississippi Valley to the southern Middle Atlantic States.
The refugee camps stretch as far as the eye can see.

More examples

  • The road stretched into the distance as far as the eye could see.
  • The mountain range stretched away into infinity.
  • A broad sweep of flat countryside stretched to the horizon in all directions.
  • On the eastern horizon, a huge cloud of smoke from burning oil tanks stretched across the sky.
  • A ribbon of road stretched ahead of us across the desert.

stretch verb (MAKE LONGER)

B2 [ I or T ] to (cause a material to) become longer or wider than usual as a result of pulling at the edges:

an exercise to stretch the leg muscles
That elastic band will snap if you stretch it too far.
This substance stretches to any shape you want.

B2 [ I ] If a material stretches, it can become longer or wider when pulled and then return to its original size:

to stretch fabrics


uk /stretʃ/ us /stretʃ/

stretch noun (PART)

C1 [ C usually singular ] a continuous area of land or water:

This particular stretch of coast is especially popular with hikers.
Traffic is at a standstill along a five-mile stretch of the ring-road.
Some very rare birds inhabit our stretch of the river.

[ C usually singular ] a stage in a race, or a part of a racetrack:

She looked certain to win as she entered the final stretch.
He fell as he galloped down the home stretch (= towards the finish).

More examples

  • There has been a collision on the southbound stretch of the motorway.
  • This stretch of land was once covered with luxuriant forest, but is now bare.
  • This stretch of water is heavily used by shipping.
  • There have been many shipwrecks along this dangerous stretch of coastline.
  • The car was dumped in a stretch of wasteland in the south of the city.

stretch noun (REACH)

[ C ] an act of stretching:

I always have a good stretch when I get up in the morning.
This is a really good stretch for your hip flexors.

stretch noun (TIME)

[ C usually singular ] a continuous period of time:

The elderly generally need far less rest than the young, and tend to sleep in several short stretches.

[ C usually singular ] informal a period of time that a criminal spends in prison:

Her brother's doing a ten-year stretch for armed robbery.
at a stretch

continuously or without any interruptions:

There's no way I could work for ten hours at a stretch.

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

"stretch" in American English

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us /stretʃ/

stretch verb (BECOME LONGER)

[ I/T ] to reach across a distance or become longer or wider, or to cause something to do this:

[ I ] Rubber stretches when you pull it.
[ T ] The banner was stretched across the street.
[ M ] He removed his hat and stretched out his arms to embrace her.

[ I/T ] If you stretch your body, your arms, or your legs, you straighten them so that they are as long as possible:

[ T ] "I’m so tired," she said, yawning and stretching her arms.

stretch verb (BREAK LIMITS)

[ T ] to go beyond, or almost beyond, the usual limit of something:

Buying a new dishwasher will really stretch our budget.
We try to stretch ourselves in our reading group, picking books we wouldn’t ordinarily read.

stretch verb (SPREAD OVER AREA)

stretch verb (EXIST OVER TIME)

[ I always + adv/prep ] to spread over a long period of time:

[ I ] The dispute stretches back over many years.
[ M ] I’d like to stretch my mortgage payments out for 30 years.


us /stretʃ/

stretch noun (UNUSUAL SITUATION)

[ C usually sing ] an unusual and sometimes difficult situation:

Playing two games in two days is a bit of a stretch for us, but I think we’ll make it.

stretch noun (AREA)

[ C usually sing ] an area of land or water:

Traffic is at a standstill along a five-mile stretch of Route 17 just south of Bridgeport.

stretch noun (BECOMING LONGER)

[ C ] the act of straightening your body, your arms, or your legs so that they are as long as possible:

Before jogging, you should always do some stretches.

stretch noun (TIME)

[ C usually sing ] a continuous period of time:

We had a long stretch of days with sub-zero temperatures last month.

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

"stretch" in Business English

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uk /stretʃ/ us

[ I ] if money or other resources stretch to something, they are enough to buy or pay for something:

MPs and many within the pensions industry are concerned £400m will not stretch far enough.
stretch to sth Our budget won't stretch to hiring any new workers.

[ T ] to make money or resources last longer than was originally planned:

City officials are currently struggling with how to stretch limited water supplies.

[ T ] if something stretches money or other resources, it uses nearly all the money or resources available so that there is very little left:

be stretched to breaking point/the limit The aviation infrastructure has been stretched to breaking point.
be stretched thin When people and funding are stretched thin, companies may find they're not putting enough resources behind the ideas that promise the greatest shareholder returns.
stretch a budget/finances The takeover will stretch the company's finances.

[ T ] MARKETING to use a brand that already exists to sell new and different products and services:

The company is trying to stretch its brand to cover anything that can be sold online.

[ T ] to force someone to use all their intelligence or skills:

My current job isn't really stretching me enough.


uk /stretʃ/ us
a stretch

used to describe something that you think will be very difficult to achieve, very expensive, etc.:

The price tag on the business may prove to be a stretch.
20 hours/5 days/6 weeks, etc. at a stretch

if you do something for 20 hours, etc. at a stretch, you do it continuously for that period of time:

Workers on an oil rig often do 12-hour days for 14 days at a stretch.
work/be at full stretch

to be working as hard as you possibly can:

OPEC members are at full stretch and cannot pump more oil.

(Definition of “stretch” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)