Definition of straggle in English:



  • 1no object, usually with adverbial of direction (of an irregular group of people) move along slowly so as to remain some distance behind the person or people in front.

    ‘the children straggled behind them’
    • ‘He said that 200 people had crowded into a tiny makeshift ticket office in the association's downtown Shanghai office when sales began, but only a handful of customers straggled in on Monday morning.’
    • ‘By the time we straggle into Bimbila, Schroeder has ridden 20 miles on a bumpy dirt track without a saddle, not complaining once.’
    • ‘As I have gone around York as a resident I have noticed school teachers allowing children to straggle across pavements and even try to cross busy roads without using the main crossings.’
    • ‘They straggled across the green, all three generations of them, bellowing at each other as if they were at least half a mile apart, rather than the two paces that actually separated them.’
    • ‘A principal role of military police has been to apprehend deserters and to prevent soldiers straggling or running from the battlefield; troops deployed in the latter role are often termed ‘battle police’.’
    • ‘They can watch us sitting in the draught at the door of the hall with a hat collecting pound coins as villagers straggle in to watch the latest show.’
    • ‘We could see a group straggling behind, and then things got nasty; this was when several people were arrested and police dogs were used.’
    • ‘In 1979 Chhomya was one of thousands of orphans who straggled back to Phnom Penh.’
    • ‘Over the next few minutes three more students straggled in.’
    • ‘Even as the fort took shape they attacked army and emigrant trains, stole livestock, and killed careless travelers who straggled too far from large groups.’
    • ‘Of the 500,000 men who marched into Russia in June anticipating an easy victory, 20,000 straggled to safety six months later.’
    • ‘As the group straggled in, curious as to why they were contacted, they saw that Ken and Amy were already sitting at the table.’
    • ‘For the next two hours we straggled across this damp desert.’
    • ‘After just over an hour of paddling, we straggled onto a beach called Santa Barbara, our first night's campsite.’
    • ‘By the time he left school, workers in Clydebank straggled rather than streamed.’
    • ‘The ladies were left to straggle after them, a varied procession up the trail.’
    • ‘I'm fairly sure they were deliberately straggling so they could get the prize for coming last.’
    • ‘At 6pm, Masters, rum in pocket, swaggers down the street like a dishevelled Pied Piper with about 60 young devotees straggling along behind him.’
    • ‘One final piece of understated showmanship: when the band came back for the encore, they straggled on in a seemingly random fashion.’
    • ‘Johnny and Harry straggled along, trying to keep up with Hugh's furious pace on the walk home.’
    trail, lag, dawdle, amble, wander, walk slowly, meander, drift
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Grow, spread, or be laid out in an irregular, untidy way.
      ‘her hair was straggling over her eyes’
      • ‘Imagine having a dozen TV cameras trained upon you over eight hours with you sporting straggling hair, two-day stubble and dirty fingernails.’
      • ‘Only three sadhus, with straggling long hair and fierce beards, were immediately identifiable; the rest, we learned later, consisted of servants and assorted bhakts who had attached themselves to the temple.’
      • ‘Marissa also did her hair in a French twist, then curled the straggling pieces so they framed her face.’
      • ‘So when the door swings open, I wonder who this man is with the long, straggling grey hair and the face that looks like it has been in a long brawl with life.’
      • ‘Greasy wisps of hair straggled across the girl's face and her skinny fingers were smudged black.’
      • ‘The quiet guitarist had twinkly green eyes and a mop of untidy, sand-coloured curls that fell across his forehead and straggled engagingly over the tops of his ears.’
      • ‘You can also use these scissors to trim any straggling hairs.’
      • ‘It grows to about 60 cm high, and is best raised annually from seed or cuttings as it soon starts to straggle and look unattractively untidy.’
      • ‘They were dressed as most bikers do, in leather, blue jeans, helmets, sun glasses, long, greasy hair straggling over the edge of their collars, scruffy moustaches and beards covering their faces.’
      • ‘This straggling shrub grows about a metre high and is covered in golden globular flowers.’
      • ‘I slicked my wet hair back, clearing the straggling tresses from my face.’
      • ‘With his straggling, white hair, the moustache stained yellow by the smoke from his pipe of home-grown, herbal tobacco and his generally battered work-clothes, he looked the embodiment of the artisan.’
      • ‘His grey hair hangs to his shoulders; his little goatee beard straggles around his chin.’
      • ‘Yet, Katherine noticed with a smile, his hair still straggled down past his ears.’
      • ‘With a soapy hand, Inga swiped back the strand of hair straggling across her forehead and put the final pot into the sink.’
      • ‘We flew in from Santiago de Chile as the pink streaks of sunset straggled across the sky.’
      • ‘Her sari was torn, her hair straggling, her fingernails ruined.’
      • ‘The colours are deftly placed, the flaunting red of the carnation answering the scarlet of the nasturtiums straggling on the plinth below.’
      • ‘The crowds that gathered at the top of the Royal Mile, and then straggled out, down towards Holyrood, had come for the bands and the performers, but not noticeably to applaud the process they were meant to be celebrating.’
      • ‘Look to the vines; if there is an abundance of long straggling growths, cut some of them out, leaving those you will want for cutting back in the autumn.’
      grow untidily, be messy, be dishevelled, be unkempt
      spread irregularly, sprawl, be scattered, be dispersed
      View synonyms


  • An untidy or irregularly arranged mass or group.

    ‘a straggle of cottages’
    • ‘The epicentre of Kerala's spice trade is the dusty straggle of rickety warehouses and open-fronted shops known as Jewtown.’
    • ‘On the map the village appears to be nothing more than a straggle of houses but actually includes a large Victorian school, antique shop and butcher.’
    • ‘Armed with 18th century maps he showed me the straggle of ruined cottages once occupied by poor country folk who worked for a pittance on local farms.’
    • ‘By that time, she had more then lost a few straggles of hair from trying to untie the stubborn curls.’
    • ‘Straws of pale hair stick out in odd directions and clots of old blood are trapped in the straggles of beard around his mouth.’
    • ‘A small girl kept her distance and looked on from beneath the unkempt fringe of a straggle of ravenesque hair.’
    • ‘He is most interested in moving me along so he can close the temple and go out to seek the next set of visitors; much more motivated to sell a few more tickets to the straggle of foreign tourists who may come through later.’
    • ‘Beyond the wadi, the land sloped up with an ochre ribbon of a road snaking to a distant straggle of trees, a few flat-roofed houses, and into bare mauve mountains holding up a sky still hazed with dust.’
    • ‘Worth visiting amongst a plethora of architectural gems are the palace, the tollbooth and the abbey but most enjoyable of all, are the little houses, randomly set against each other in an untidy straggle up the winding lanes.’
    • ‘Elisabeth found herself with a straggle of colonists in a mosquito-ridden, uncleared jungle where sandflies bored into the skin of the feet and the clay soil was so intractable that nothing would grow.’
    • ‘Her bedraggled black hair falls in soggy straggles around her face and shoulders.’
    • ‘Its straggle of brightly-coloured box-like houses is dramatically set between steep stark mountains and a sound strewn, even at the height of midsummer, with huge stately icebergs.’
    • ‘Too suddenly over the park came evening to tinge a straggle of clouds and bring fresh intensities to the still green trees.’
    • ‘He returns to the place of his childhood holidays on the Gold Coast to find that the straggle of fibro cottages has given way to rows of anonymous high-rise apartments.’
    • ‘Set high on the Weald with views towards Romney Marsh, the 90-acre property was a rather neglected spread with a pretty tile-hung house, a straggle of outbuildings and no garden to speak of.’
    • ‘My wet hair is plastered to my head, a bright, reddish, waterlogged mass clouding my head in wet straggles.’
    • ‘Seven years ago, Margaret and Iain bought a straggle of tumbledown farm buildings on a south-facing hillside at Glecknabae in the north of the island.’
    • ‘I've already seen straggles of protestors winding past my hotel, which isn't even close, so it will be interesting to see what the numbers are like - or what the police are like.’
    • ‘He first appeared at Wimbledon in 1972, winning the junior title, a lanky Swedish youth with a straggle of blond brown hair.’
    • ‘Thea asks why she cut her hair - the straggle has been replaced with a close crop.’


Late Middle English: perhaps from dialect strake ‘go’.