intr.v. strayed, stray·ing, strays
a. To move away from a group, deviate from a course, or escape from established limits: strayed away from the tour group to look at some sculptures.
b. To move without a destination or purpose; wander: cows that strayed across the road toward the river. See Synonyms at wander.
2. To be directed without apparent purpose; look in an idle or casual manner: The driver's eyes strayed from the road toward the fields.
3. To follow a winding or erratic course: "White mists began to rise ... on the surface of the river and stray about the roots of the trees upon its borders" (J.R.R. Tolkien).
4. To act contrary to moral or proper behavior, especially in being sexually unfaithful: "He strayed from his marriage and fathered a son with a village woman" (Adam Hochschild).
5. To become diverted, as from a subject or train of thought: strayed from our original purpose. See Synonyms at swerve.
One that has strayed, especially a domestic animal wandering about.
1. Straying or having strayed; wandering or lost: stray cats and dogs.
2. Scattered or separate: a few stray crumbs.
[Middle English straien, from Old French estraier, from estree, highway, from Latin strāta; see STREET.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.