Sense: 1-4
Date: 1500-1600
Origin: STRAIN2
Sense: 5-8
Origin: Old English streon 'gain'


1 noun


[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.


[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.


[uncountable]HP 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.


[uncountable and countable]MI 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.


[countable]HB a type of animal, plant, or disease
strain of
different strains of wheat
a new strain of the flu virus


[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.

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

strains of something

literary the sound of music being played:
We sipped wine to the strains of Beethoven.

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