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1 [+ object] : to injure (a body part or muscle) by too much tension, use, or effort

I strained my back trying to lift the couch.

Too much computer work strains the eyes.

He strained a muscle in his leg.

2 : to try very hard to do or get something

[no object] — often + for

He was straining for air. [=he was struggling to breathe]

— often followed by to + verb

He strained to open the jar.

She strained to sing the high notes.

The people in the back of the room strained to hear the speaker.

[+ object]

I strained my ears to hear [=I tried very hard to hear] what they were whispering.

I strained my eyes [=I tried very hard to see] in the darkness.

3 a : to be pulled or stretched in a forceful way

[no object]

His muscles strained under the heavy weight.

[+ object]

People were straining their necks [=were lifting their heads as high as they could by stretching their necks] to see the fight.

— sometimes used figuratively

You are straining (the limits of) my patience with your nagging.

b [no object] : to pull hard on or push hard against something — + at or against

The dog strained at its leash.

His belly strained against the buttons of the shirt.

— sometimes used figuratively

The kids were straining at the leash to get going. [=were very eager to get going]

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