American English

Definition of strain noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[uncountable, countable] pressure on someone or something because they have too much to do or manage, or something 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 transit 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. Thesauruspressurestress tension strainThese are all words for the feelings of anxiety caused by the problems in someone's life.pressure difficulties and feelings of anxiety that are caused by the need to achieve something or to behave in a particular way:She was losing sleep over the pressure of her work.stress pressure or anxiety caused by the problems in someone's life:stress-related illnesspressure or stress?It is common to say that someone 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 tensionstrain pressure on someone because they have too much to do or manage; the problems, worry, or anxiety that this produces:I found it a strain staying home with four children.Patterns 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 to be suffering from stress/tension
  2. physical pressure
  3. 2[uncountable, countable] the pressure that is put on something 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 300lb.breaking strain (= it will break when it is stretched or pulled by a force greater than this).
  4. injury
  5. 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
  6. type of plant/animal/disease
  7. 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.
  8. in someone's character
  9. 5[countable, usually singular] a particular tendency in the character of a person or group, or a quality in their manner synonym streak He had a definite strain of snobbery in him.
  10. of music
  11. 6[countable, usually plural] (formal) the sound of music being played or sung She could hear the strains of Mozart through the window.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: strain