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[strey] /streɪ/
verb (used without object)
to deviate from the direct course, leave the proper place, or go beyond the proper limits, especially without a fixed course or purpose; ramble:
to stray from the main road.
to wander; roam:
The new puppy strayed from room to room.
to go astray; deviate, as from a moral, religious, or philosophical course:
to stray from the teachings of the church.
to digress or become distracted.
a domestic animal found wandering at large or without an owner.
any homeless or friendless person or animal.
a person or animal that strays:
the strays of a flock.
strays, Radio. static.
straying or having strayed, as a domestic animal.
found or occurring apart from others or as an isolated or casual instance; incidental or occasional.
Radio. undesired:
stray capacitance.
Origin of stray
1250-1300; (v.) Middle English strayen, aphetic variant of astraien, estraien < Middle French estraier < Vulgar Latin *extrāvagāre to wander out of bounds (see extravagant); (noun) Middle English, in part derivative of the v., in part < Anglo-French stray, Middle French estrai, derivative of estraier
Related forms
strayer, noun
unstraying, adjective
1. rove, range. 2. meander. 3. err. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for stray
  • My missive would be lost or tossed as a stray crank.
  • They provide animal rescue for stray and injured animals and maintain an area-wide lost and found service.
  • It also doesn't matter if you hunt stray cats for sport.
  • At weekends and holidays, stray bullets whiz as often as fireworks.
  • The foundation plans to finance a sterilization program on the island to reduce the stray overpopulation.
  • And because these systems cannot stray from their canned phrases, their abilities are limited.
  • Throw in the weirdo ballots with lizard people, stray marks and indecipherable dots, and the error rate grows even more.
  • They're fun to chase, especially when they inspire you to stray outside the way you'd usually play a game.
  • Yes, the stray graduate student who sees you at the supermarket will notice, and perhaps scuttle off to tell his or her cronies.
  • Alas, it is also a place where petty politicians crush the joy out of life, and where the police are afraid of stray chickens.
British Dictionary definitions for stray


verb (intransitive)
to wander away, as from the correct path or from a given area
to wander haphazardly
to digress from the point, lose concentration, etc
to deviate from certain moral standards
  1. a domestic animal, fowl, etc, that has wandered away from its place of keeping and is lost
  2. (as modifier): stray dogs
a lost or homeless person, esp a child: waifs and strays
an isolated or random occurrence, specimen, etc, that is out of place or outside the usual pattern
scattered, random, or haphazard: a stray bullet grazed his thigh
Derived Forms
strayer, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French estraier, from Vulgar Latin estragāre (unattested), from Latin extrā- outside + vagāri to roam; see astray, extravagant, stravaig
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for stray

c.1300, a shortening of Old French estraier "wander about," literally "go about the streets," from estree "route, highway," from Late Latin via strata "paved road" (see street). On another theory, the Old French word is from Vulgar Latin *estragare, a contraction of *estravagare, representing Latin extra vagari "to wander outside" (see extravagant). Figurative sense of "to wander from the path of rectitude" is attested from early 14c.


"domestic animal found wandering," early 13c., from Old French estraié "strayed," past participle of estraier (see stray (v.)). The adjective is first recorded c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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