strain [strain strains strained straining] noun, verb BrE [streɪn]
NAmE [streɪn]
1. uncountable, countable pressure on sb/sth because they have too much to do or manage, or sth very difficult to deal with; the problems, worry or anxiety that this produces
Their marriage is under great strain at the moment.
These repayments are putting a strain on our finances.
Relax, and let us take the strain (= do things for you).
The transport service cannot cope with the strain of so many additional passengers.
You will learn to cope with the stresses and strains of public life.
I found it a strain having to concentrate for so long.
There are strains in the relationship between the two countries.  
2. uncountable, countable the pressure that is put on sth when a physical force stretches, pushes, or pulls it
The rope broke under the strain.
You should try not to place too much strain on muscles and joints.
The ground here cannot take the strain of a large building.
The cable has a 140kg breaking strain (= it will break when it is stretched or pulled by a force greater than this).  
3. countable, uncountable an injury to a part of your body, such as a muscle, that is caused by using it too much or by twisting it
a calf/groin/leg strain
muscle strain  
4. countable a particular type of plant or animal, or of a disease caused by bacteria, etc
a new strain of mosquitoes resistant to the poison
This is only one of the many strains of the disease.  
5. countable, usually singular a particular tendency in the character of a person or group, or a quality in their manner
Syn: streak
He had a definite strain of snobbery in him.  
6. countable, usually plural (formal) the sound of music being played or sung
She could hear the strains of Mozart through the window.
Word Origin:
v. and n. senses 1 to 3 n. sense 6 Middle English Old French estreindre Latin stringere ‘draw tight’
n. senses 4 to 5 Old English strīon ‘acquisition, gain’ Germanic Latin struere ‘to build up’
strain noun
1. U, C
Their marriage is under great strain.
stress • • pressure • • tension • • demands|informal, especially journalism heat
be under strain/stress/pressure
cope with the strain/stress/pressure/tension/demands
relieve/release the strain/stress/pressure/tension
2. U, C
The rope broke under the strain.
stress • • pressure • • weight • • load
under the strain/stress/pressure/weight/load
put strain/stress/pressure/weight on sth
bear the strain/stress/weight/load of sth
Strain, stress or pressure? Pressure can be heavy, firm, gentle or light. Both strain and stress usually suggest that there is too much pressure.
stress tension strain
These are all words for the feelings of anxiety caused by the problems in sb's life.
pressure • difficulties and feelings of anxiety that are caused by the need to achieve sth or to behave in a particular way: She was unable to attend because of the pressures of work.
stress • pressure or anxiety caused by the problems in sb's life: stress-related illnesses
pressure or stress?
It is common to say that sb is suffering from stress, while pressure may be the thing that causes stress.
tension • a feeling of anxiety and stress that makes it impossible to relax: nervous tension
strain • pressure on sb/sth because they have too much to do or manage; the problems, worry or anxiety that this produces: I found it a strain looking after four children.
to be under pressure/stress/strain
considerable pressure/stress/tension/strain
to cause stress/tension/strain
to cope with the pressure/stress/tension/strain
to relieve/release the pressure/stress/tension/strain
to be suffering from stress/tension
Example Bank:
After three years, their marriage was beginning to show signs of strain.
After weeks of overtime, she was starting to feel the strain.
After weeks of uncertainty, the strain was beginning to take its toll.
Gerrard will play if he can shake off a slight thigh strain.
H5N1 is a strain of avian influenza.
He broke down under the strain of having to work twelve hours a day.
I found it a bit of a strain making conversation with her.
Increasing demand is placing undue strain on services.
It's a real strain having to get up so early!
Losing the business put a strain on their relationship.
Television newsreaders come under enormous strain.
The Internet takes the strain out of shopping.
The ice gave way under the strain.
The mental strain of sharing an office with Alison was starting to show.
The new scheme is designed to take the strain out of shopping.
There's too much strain on the corner of the table.
You'll get eye strain if you don't put the light on.
a fishing line with a 15lb breaking strain
the stresses and strains of a long day
He heard the familiar strains of a tango coming from the club.
I found it a strain looking after four children.
Relax, and let us take the strain.
The cable has a 140kg breaking strain.
The rope broke under the strain.
a calf/groin/leg strain
Idioms: strain at the leash strain every nerve
verb  INJURE
1. transitive ~ sth/yourself to injure yourself or part of your body by making it work too hard
to strain a muscle
You'll strain your back carrying those heavy suitcases.  
2. transitive, intransitive to make an effort to do sth, using all your mental or physical strength
~ sth to do sth I strained my ears (= listened very hard) to catch what they were saying.
~ sth Necks were strained for a glimpse of the stranger.
~ to do sth People were straining to see what was going on.
~ (sth) (for sth) He burst to the surface, straining for air.
Bend gently to the left without straining.  
3. transitive ~ sth to try to make sth do more than it is able to do
The sudden influx of visitors is straining hotels in the town to the limit.
His constant complaints were straining our patience.
The dispute has strained relations between the two countries (= made them difficult).
Her latest version of events strained their credulity still further.  
4. intransitive + adv./prep. to push hard against sth; to pull hard on sth
She strained against the ropes that held her.
The dogs were straining at the leash, eager to get to the park.  
5. transitive to pour food, etc. through sth with very small holes in it, for example a sieve, in order to separate the solid part from the liquid part
~ sth Use a colander to strain the vegetables.
~ sth off Strain off any excess liquid.
more at creak under the strain at creak v.
Verb forms:
Word Origin:
v. and n. senses 1 to 3 n. sense 6 Middle English Old French estreindre Latin stringere ‘draw tight’
n. senses 4 to 5 Old English strīon ‘acquisition, gain’ Germanic Latin struere ‘to build up’
Being injured
have a fall/an injury
receive/suffer/sustain a serious injury/a hairline fracture/(especially BrE) whiplash/a gunshot wound
hurt/injure your ankle/back/leg
damage the brain/an ankle ligament/your liver/the optic nerve/the skin
pull/strain/tear a hamstring/ligament/muscle/tendon
sprain/twist your ankle/wrist
break a bone/your collarbone/your leg/three ribs
fracture/crack your skull
break/chip/knock out/lose a tooth
burst/perforate your eardrum
dislocate your finger/hip/jaw/shoulder
bruise/cut/graze your arm/knee/shoulder
burn/scald yourself/your tongue
bang/bump/hit/ (informal) bash your elbow/head/knee (on/against sth)
Treating injuries
treat sb for burns/a head injury/a stab wound
examine/clean/dress/bandage/treat a bullet wound
repair a damaged/torn ligament/tendon/cartilage
amputate/cut off an arm/a finger/a foot/a leg/a limb
put on/ (formal) apply/take off (especially NAmE) a Band-Aid™/(BrE) a plaster/a bandage
need/require/put in/ (especially BrE) have (out)/ (NAmE) get (out) stitches
put on/rub on/ (formal) apply cream/ointment/lotion
have/receive/undergo (BrE) physiotherapy/(NAmE) physical therapy
wound hurt bruise sprain pull strain
These words all mean to harm yourself or sb else physically, especially in an accident.
injure • to harm yourself or sb else physically, especially in an accident: He injured his knee playing hockey. Three people were injured in the crash.
wound • [often passive] (rather formal) to injure part of the body, especially by making a hole in the skin using a weapon: 50 people were seriously wounded in the attack.
Wound is often used to talk about people being hurt in war or in other attacks which affect a lot of people.
hurt • to cause physical pain to sb/yourself; to injure sb/yourself: Did you hurt yourself?
injure or hurt?
You can hurt or injure a part of the body in an accident. Hurt emphasizes the physical pain caused; injure emphasizes that the part of the body has been damaged in some way.
bruise • to make a blue, brown or purple mark (= a bruise) appear on the skin after sb has fallen or been hit; to develop a bruise
sprain • to injure part of your body, especially your ankle, wrist or knee, by suddenly bending it in an awkward way, causing pain and swelling
pull • to damage a muscle, etc, by using too much force
strain • to injure yourself or part of your body by making it work too hard: Don't strain your eyes by reading in poor light.
to injure/hurt/strain yourself
to injure/hurt/sprain/pull/strain a muscle
to injure/hurt/sprain your ankle/foot/knee/wrist/hand
to injure/hurt/strain your back/shoulder/eyes
to injure/hurt your spine/neck
to be badly/severely/slightly injured/wounded/hurt/bruised/sprained
Example Bank:
I strained forward to get a better view.
Our public health laboratories are strained to (the) breaking point.
Several men were straining at a rope, trying to move the stalled vehicle.
The company is already straining under the weight of a $12 billion debt.
The dispute severely strained relations between the two countries.
The dogs were straining against the sled.
Their ears strained for any slight sound.
We had to strain to hear what was being said.
You could see he was straining hard to understand.
Are you sure you can carry all that? Don't strain yourself.
Don't strain your eyes by reading in poor light.
Strain the juice from the cherries into a small saucepan.
You'll strain your back carrying those heavy suitcases.

WordNet Dictionary:
1. (physics) deformation of a physical body under the action of applied forces
2. difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension
- she endured the stresses and strains of life
- "he presided over the economy during the period of the greatest stress and danger"- R.J.Samuelson
Syn: stress
3. a succession of notes forming a distinctive sequence
- she was humming an air from Beethoven
Syn: tune, melody, air, melodic line, line, melodic phrase
4. (psychology) nervousness resulting from mental stress
- his responsibilities were a constant strain
- the mental strain of staying alert hour after hour was too much for him
Syn: mental strain, nervous strain
5. a special variety of domesticated animals within a species
- he experimented on a particular breed of white rats
- he created a new strain of sheep
Syn: breed, stock
6. (biology) a group of organisms within a species that differ in trivial ways from similar groups
- a new strain of microorganisms
Syn: form, variant, var.
7. injury to a muscle (often caused by overuse); results in swelling and pain
8. the general meaning or substance of an utterance
- although I disagreed with him I could follow the tenor of his argument
Syn: tenor
9. an effortful attempt to attain a goal
Syn: striving, nisus, pains
10. an intense or violent exertion
Syn: straining
1. to exert much effort or energy
- straining our ears to hear
Syn: strive, reach
2. test the limits of
- You are trying my patience!
Syn: try, stress
3. use to the utmost; exert vigorously or to full capacity
- He really extended himself when he climbed Kilimanjaro
- Don't strain your mind too much
Syn: extend
- sift the flour
Syn: sift, sieve
5. cause to be tense and uneasy or nervous or anxious
- he got a phone call from his lawyer that tensed him up
Syn: tense, tense up
Ant: unstrain, relax (for: tense)
6. become stretched or tense or taut
- the bodybuilder's neck muscles tensed; " "the rope strained when the weight was attached
Syn: tense
7. rub through a strainer or process in an electric blender
- puree the vegetables for the baby
Syn: puree
8. remove by passing through a filter
- filter out the impurities
Syn: filter, filtrate, separate out, filter out
9. alter the shape of (something) by stress
- His body was deformed by leprosy
Syn: deform, distort

Webster's 1913 Dictionary:
n.1.Race; stock; generation; descent; family.
He is of a noble strain.
With animals and plants a cross between different varieties, or between individuals of the same variety but of another strain, gives vigor and fertility to the offspring.
2.Hereditary character, quality, or disposition.
Intemperance and lust breed diseases, which, propogated, spoil the strain of nation.
3.Rank; a sort.
4.(Hort.) A cultural subvariety that is only slightly differentiated.
v. t.1.To draw with force; to extend with great effort; to stretch; as, to strain a rope; to strain the shrouds of a ship; to strain the cords of a musical instrument.
[imp. & p. p. Strained ; p. pr. & vb. n. Straining.]
2.(Mech.) To act upon, in any way, so as to cause change of form or volume, as forces on a beam to bend it.
3.To exert to the utmost; to ply vigorously.
He sweats,
Strains his young nerves.
They strain their warbling throats
To welcome in the spring.
4.To stretch beyond its proper limit; to do violence to, in the matter of intent or meaning; as, to strain the law in order to convict an accused person.
There can be no other meaning in this expression, however some may pretend to strain it.
5.To injure by drawing, stretching, or the exertion of force; as, the gale strained the timbers of the ship.
6.To injure in the muscles or joints by causing to make too strong an effort; to harm by overexertion; to sprain; as, to strain a horse by overloading; to strain the wrist; to strain a muscle.
Prudes decayed about may track,
Strain their necks with looking back.
7.To squeeze; to press closely.
Evander with a close embrace
Strained his departing friend.
8.To make uneasy or unnatural; to produce with apparent effort; to force; to constrain.
He talks and plays with Fatima, but his mirth
Is forced and strained.
The quality of mercy is not strained.
9.To urge with importunity; to press; as, to strain a petition or invitation.
Note, if your lady strain his entertainment.
10.To press, or cause to pass, through a strainer, as through a screen, a cloth, or some porous substance; to purify, or separate from extraneous or solid matter, by filtration; to filter; as, to strain milk through cloth.
To strain a point
to make a special effort; especially, to do a degree of violence to some principle or to one's own feelings.
To strain courtesy
to go beyond what courtesy requires; to insist somewhat too much upon the precedence of others; - often used ironically.
v. i.1.To make violent efforts.
To build his fortune I will strain a little.
2.To percolate; to be filtered; as, water straining through a sandy soil.
n.1.The act of straining, or the state of being strained.
2.A violent effort; an excessive and hurtful exertion or tension, as of the muscles; as, he lifted the weight with a strain; the strain upon a ship's rigging in a gale; also, the hurt or injury resulting; a sprain.
Whether any poet of our country since Shakespeare has exerted a greater variety of powers with less strain and less ostentation.
Credit is gained by custom, and seldom recovers a strain.
2.(Mus.) A portion of music divided off by a double bar; a complete musical period or sentence; a movement, or any rounded subdivision of a movement.
Their heavenly harps a lower strain began.
3.(Mech. Physics) A change of form or dimensions of a solid or liquid mass, produced by a stress.
3.Any sustained note or movement; a song; a distinct portion of an ode or other poem; also, the pervading note, or burden, of a song, poem, oration, book, etc.; theme; motive; manner; style; also, a course of action or conduct; as, he spoke in a noble strain; there was a strain of woe in his story; a strain of trickery appears in his career.
Such take too high a strain at first.
The genius and strain of the book of Proverbs.
It [Pilgrim's Progress] seems a novelty, and yet contains
Nothing but sound and honest gospel strains.
4.Turn; tendency; inborn disposition. Cf. 1st Strain.
Because heretics have a strain of madness, he applied her with some corporal chastisements.

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