v. stretched, stretch·ing, stretch·es
1. To lengthen, widen, or distend: stretched the sweater out of shape.
2. To cause to extend from one place to another or across a given space: stretched the banner between two poles.
3. To make taut; tighten: stretched the tarpaulin until it ripped.
4. To reach or put forth; extend: stretched out his hand.
a. To extend (oneself or one's limbs, for example) to full length: stretched her calves before running.
b. To extend (oneself) when lying down: she stretched herself out on the couch.
c. To put to torture on the rack.
6. To wrench or strain (a muscle, for example).
a. To extend or enlarge beyond the usual or proper limits: stretch the meaning of a word.
b. To subject to undue strain: to stretch one's patience.
a. To expand in order to fulfill a larger function: stretch a budget; stretch a paycheck.
b. To increase the quantity of by admixture or dilution: stretch a meal by thinning the stew.
9. To prolong: stretch out an argument.
10. Informal To fell by a blow: stretched his opponent in the first round.
1. To become lengthened, widened, or distended.
2. To extend or reach over a distance or area or in a given direction: "On both sides of us stretched the wet plain" (Ernest Hemingway).
3. To lie down at full length: stretched out on the bed.
4. To extend one's muscles or limbs, as after prolonged sitting or on awakening.
5. To extend over a given period of time: "This story stretches over a whole generation" (William Golding).
1. The act of stretching or the state of being stretched.
2. The extent or scope to which something can be stretched; elasticity.
3. A continuous or unbroken length, area, or expanse: an empty stretch of highway.
4. A straight section of a racecourse or track, especially the section leading to the finish line.
a. A continuous period of time.
b. Slang A term of imprisonment: served a two-year stretch.
c. Informal The last stage of an event, period, or process.
6. Baseball A series of movements in which a pitcher, standing with the glove side facing home plate, raises both hands to the height of the head and then lowers them to the chest or waist for a short pause before pitching the ball. It is used especially when runners are on base because it gives base runners less time to steal than they have during a full windup.
1. Made of an elastic material that stretches easily: stretch pants.
2. Of, relating to, or being a vehicle, such as a limousine or passenger jet, having an extended seating area that provides extra space for more passengers, leg room, or amenities.
stretch (one's) legs
To go for a walk, especially after a lengthy period of sitting.
[Middle English strecchen, from Old English streccan.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.