1. a slender cord or thick thread used for binding or tying; line.
  2. something resembling a cord or thread.
  3. Also called cosmic string. Physics. a mathematical entity used to represent elementary particles, as gravitons, quarks, or leptons, in terms of a small but finite stringlike object existing in the four dimensions of spacetime and in additional, hypothetical, spacelike dimensions. The theory of such objects (string theory) avoids the many mathematical difficulties that arise from treating particles as points.
  4. a narrow strip of flexible material, as cloth or leather, for tying parts together: the strings of a bonnet.
  5. a necklace consisting of a number of beads, pearls, or the like threaded or strung on a cord; strand: She wore a double string of pearls.
  6. any series of things arranged or connected in a line or following closely one after another: a string of islands; a string of questions.
  7. a series of railroad cars coupled together but not constituting an entire train.
  8. Journalism. a compilation of clippings of a stringer’s published writings, submitted in request of payment according to an agreed space rate.
  9. a group of animals, especially saddle horses, owned or used by one person: a string of polo ponies.
  10. (in a musical instrument) a tightly stretched cord or wire that produces a tone when caused to vibrate, as by plucking, striking, or friction of a bow.
  11. strings,
    1. stringed instruments, especially those played with a bow.
    2. players on such instruments in an orchestra or band.
  12. a bowstring.
  13. a cord or fiber in a plant.
  14. the tough piece uniting the two parts of a pod: the strings of beans.
  15. Architecture.
    1. a stringcourse.
    2. Also called of the sloping sides of a stair, supporting the treads and risers.
  16. Computers, Linguistics. a linear sequence of symbols, words, characters, or bits that is treated as a unit.
  17. Billiards, Pool.
    1. a stroke made by each player from the head of the table to the opposite cushion and back, to determine, by means of the resultant positions of the cue balls, who shall open the game.
    2. Also called string line.a line from behind which the cue ball is placed after being out of play.
  18. a complement of contestants or players grouped as a squad in accordance with their skill: He made the second string on the football team.
  19. Usually strings. conditions or limitations on a proposal: a generous offer with no strings attached.
  20. Obsolete. a ligament, nerve, or the like in an animal body.

verb (used with object), strung; strung or (Rare) stringed; string·ing.

  1. to furnish with or as with a string or strings: to string a bonnet; to string a bow.
  2. to extend or stretch (a cord, thread, etc.) from one point to another.
  3. to thread on or as on a string: to string beads.
  4. to connect in or as in a line; arrange in a series or succession: She knows how to string words together.
  5. Music.
    1. to adjust the string of (a bow) or tighten the strings of (a musical instrument) to the required pitch.
    2. to equip (a bow or instrument) with new strings.
  6. to provide or adorn with something suspended or slung: a room strung with festoons.
  7. to deprive of a string or strings; strip the strings from: to string beans.
  8. to make tense, as the sinews, nerves, mind, etc.
  9. to kill by hanging (usually followed by up).
  10. Slang. to fool or hoax.

verb (used without object), strung; strung or (Rare) stringed; string·ing.

  1. to form into or move in a string or series: The ideas string together coherently.
  2. to form into a string or strings, as a glutinous substance does when pulled: Good taffy doesn’t break—it strings.

Verb Phrases

  1. string along, Informal.
    1. to be in agreement; follow with confidence: He found he couldn’t string along with all their modern notions.
    2. to keep (a person) waiting or in a state of uncertainty.
    3. to deceive; cheat; trick.
  2. string out,
    1. to extend; stretch out: The parade strung out for miles.
    2. to prolong: The promised three days strung out to six weeks.
  1. on a/the string, Informal. subject to the whim of another; in one’s power; dependent: After keeping me on a string for two months, they finally hired someone else.
  2. pull strings/wires,
    1. to use one’s influence or authority, usually in secret, in order to bring about a desired result.
    2. to gain or attempt to gain one’s objectives by means of influential friends, associates, etc.: He had his uncle pull strings to get him a promotion.


  1. a thin length of cord, twine, fibre, or similar material used for tying, hanging, binding, etc
  2. a group of objects threaded on a single stranda string of beads
  3. a series or succession of things, events, acts, utterances, etca string of oaths
  4. a number, chain, or group of similar things, animals, etc, owned by or associated with one person or bodya string of girlfriends
  5. a tough fibre or cord in a plantthe string of an orange; the string of a bean
  6. music a tightly stretched wire, cord, etc, found on stringed instruments, such as the violin, guitar, and piano
  7. short for bowstring
  8. architect short for string course, stringer (def. 1)
  9. maths linguistics a sequence of symbols or words
  10. linguistics a linear sequence, such as a sentence as it is spoken
  11. physics a one-dimensional entity postulated to be a fundamental component of matter in some theories of particle physicsSee also cosmic string
  12. billiards another word for lag 1 (def. 6)
  13. a group of characters that can be treated as a unit by a computer program
  14. (plural) complications or conditions (esp in the phrase no strings attached)
  15. (modifier) composed of stringlike strands woven in a large mesha string bag; string vest
  16. keep on a string to have control or a hold over (a person), esp emotionally
  17. pull strings informal to exert personal influence, esp secretly or unofficially
  18. pull the strings to have real or ultimate control of something
  19. second string a person or thing regarded as a secondary source of strength
  20. the strings (plural)
    1. violins, violas, cellos, and double basses collectively
    2. the section of a symphony orchestra constituted by such instruments

verb strings, stringing or strung (strʌŋ)

  1. (tr) to provide with a string or strings
  2. (tr) to suspend or stretch from one point to another
  3. (tr) to thread on a string
  4. (tr) to form or extend in a line or series
  5. (foll by out) to space or spread out at intervals
  6. (tr usually foll by up) informal to kill (a person) by hanging
  7. (tr) to remove the stringy parts from (vegetables, esp beans)
  8. (intr) (esp of viscous liquids) to become stringy or ropey
  9. (tr often foll by up) to cause to be tense or nervous
  10. billiards another word for lag 1 (def. 3)

Old English streng “line, cord, thread,” from Proto-Germanic *strangiz (cf. Old Norse strengr, Danish streng, Middle Dutch strenge, Dutch streng, Old High German strang, German Strang “rope, cord”), from *strang- “taut, stiff,” from PIE root *strenk- “tight, narrow; pull tight, twist” (see strain). Gradually restricted by early Middle English to lines that are smaller than a rope. Sense of “a number of objects arranged in a line” first recorded late 15c.

Old English meaning “ligaments, tendons” is preserved in hamstring, heartstrings. Meaning “limitations, stipulations” (1888) is American English, probably from the common April Fool’s joke of leaving a purse that looks full of money on the sidewalk, then tugging it away with an attached string when someone stoops to pick it up. To pull strings “control the course of affairs” (1860) is from the notion of puppet theater. First string, second string, etc. in athletics (1863) is from archers’ custom of carrying spare bowstrings in the event that one breaks. Strings “stringed instruments” is attested from mid-14c. String bean is from 1759; string bikini is from 1974.


c.1400, “to fit a bow with a string,” from string (n.). Meaning “to thread (beads, etc.) on a string” is from 1610s. To string (someone) along is slang from 1902; string (v.) in this sense is attested in British dialect from c.1812.

In addition to the idioms beginning with string

  • string along
  • string out
  • strings attached
  • string together
  • string up

also see:

  • harp on (one string)
  • no strings attached
  • on a shoestring
  • on a string
  • pull strings
  • purse strings
  • tied to apron strings
  • two strings to one’s bow

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