Definition of muscle in US English:



  • 1A band or bundle of fibrous tissue in a human or animal body that has the ability to contract, producing movement in or maintaining the position of parts of the body.

    Muscles are formed of bands, sheets, or columns of elongated cells (or fibers) containing interlocking parallel arrays of the proteins actin and myosin. Projections on the myosin molecules respond to chemical signals by forming and reforming chemical bonds to the actin, so that the filaments move past each other and interlock more deeply. This converts chemical energy into the mechanical force of contraction, and also generates heat

    ‘the calf muscle’
    ‘the sheet of muscle between the abdomen and chest’
    • ‘He also leaned laterally during single leg stance, which may indicate weak gluteus medius muscles relative to his body weight.’
    • ‘The pain is the result of an overload on your tibia and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to your tibia.’
    • ‘Make sure you get sufficient protein to protect not only your bones, but your muscles and other body tissues.’
    • ‘The striated muscles innervated by cranial nerves are usually affected the most severely.’
    • ‘The tendon is the strong, white fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones.’
    • ‘Energy is also needed to grow and repair the body's tissues, and to power the muscles for movement.’
    • ‘And I had thought maybe I'd done something, you know, pulled a muscle or something.’
    • ‘The second group called sarcomas, arise from the substance of solid tissues such as muscle, bone, lymph glands, blood vessels and fibrous and other connective tissues.’
    • ‘A heartbeat is when the muscles of the heart contract and push blood around the body.’
    • ‘The processes that bring about movement of the voluntary muscles of the body start on the surface of the brain in an area called the motor cortex.’
    • ‘In this specimen, large lymphoid cells diffusely infiltrated muscle and fibrous tissue.’
    • ‘RSI occurs when repeated physical movements damage tendons, nerves, muscles and other soft body tissues.’
    • ‘The powerful venom acts on the victim's voluntary muscles, paralysing the muscles required for body movement and breathing.’
    • ‘On physical examination, pain is present from the tip of the medial epicondyle to the pronator teres and flexor carpi radialis muscles.’
    • ‘In this condition, muscle and fibrous tissues of the renal artery wall thicken and harden into rings.’
    • ‘We should explain: a tendon is basically a strong piece of tissue which connects a muscle to bone and is the extension which pulls on the bone and allows the joint to straighten or flex.’
    • ‘Contraction of the circumferential muscle bundles constricts the infundibulum to a conical shape.’
    • ‘Once extracted, they can be stimulated in a laboratory to develop into any type of body cell or organ including bone, muscle and body tissue.’
    • ‘Each time the calf and thigh muscles contract when walking, veins deep inside the leg are squeezed.’
    • ‘A septum of connective tissue separates the circular muscle layers of the pylorus and duodenum.’
    1. 1.1 A band or bundle of tissue when well developed or prominently visible under the skin.
      ‘showing off our muscles to prove how strong we were’
      • ‘He wore all black clothes but she could see the ripple of his muscles beneath the fabric on his arms and chest.’
      • ‘Both have played an awful lot of rugby in the past few seasons and right now they're concentrating on building muscle and power.’
      • ‘The mountain lion had a tawny coat; beneath, its muscles rippled, bunching and stretching with each step.’
      • ‘He shrugged, muscles rippling beneath his bare bronzed skin.’
      • ‘The mastiff is powerful, heavy muscles rippling beneath its scarred pelt.’
      • ‘He pressed his palm against Rob's chest, felt his heart beating slowly beneath the smooth, tanned skin and taut muscles.’
      • ‘Beneath his golden skin, muscles rippled as he shifted positions.’
      • ‘She felt the slight ripple underneath the skin, his muscles bunching and clenching in reaction to her touch.’
      • ‘His silken hide of blood brown hue gleamed as he moved, muscles rippling beneath the sleek pelt.’
      • ‘He was at least twice my size, all muscle and brute strength.’
      • ‘Her stomach tightens, strong muscles visible beneath her skin.’
      • ‘Her physique is trim and strong; you can see every ripple of her well-defined muscles beneath her shiny fur.’
      • ‘The muscles rippled and jerked under a sick gray skin that looked as though it had been stretched too tightly over the body.’
      • ‘She was thin, so nearly every bone protruded beneath translucent white skin and emaciated muscles.’
      • ‘His muscles under his tan skin rippled, sending shivers up my spine.’
      • ‘Vastly enhanced muscles rippled beneath his armour, as if threatening to burst through their restraints at any moment.’
      • ‘He stroked her neck, feeling the strong muscles beneath the skin ripple at his touch.’
      • ‘He watched the way she took up a pickaxe and swung it, saw the muscles rippling beneath her tanned skin.’
  • 2Physical power; strength.

    ‘he had muscle but no brains’
    • ‘Predictably, the alien blesses the boy with his powers, so the audience is not robbed of the opportunity to see some muscle, brawn and macho acts from the young star in the second half.’
    • ‘Months in the planning, it is a job that needs all the skills of a group of experienced villains, brains, muscle and connections, with no man greater than the sum of the whole.’
    • ‘He was the executive producer of the unit and its brains and muscle, too.’
    • ‘But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.’
    • ‘We've power of muscle and brain, and where else is that combination useful?’
    • ‘Nesterenko is tall and strong, though, and started mobilising that muscle at just the right time.’
    • ‘A matter of a difference in opinion should not be settled with muscle rather than the brain.’
    • ‘The crafting of such language, potent with muscle and brain, lends objective shape to the act of consciousness itself.’
    • ‘He trained in the UK as a chef, but because of his dyslexia the jobs he can get use his muscle not his brain and he cannot get a driving licence - he can't take the written test.’
    • ‘But we've got to fight with our muscle and our brain, and do it in a smart way.’
    • ‘He thought Luke was all muscle and no brains.’
    • ‘He taught that power was a must, yet it must be total power that included muscle, mind, and ki working in unison.’
    • ‘Asha thought of him as a dumb jockey with no brains but plenty of muscle.’
    • ‘At power forward, Portland can go with Wallace or Brian Grant, depending on whether you want star power or muscle and hustle.’
    • ‘The Wolves also could use some muscle at power forward, which would give Garnett and Smith some help up front and take the pressure off the perimeter shooters.’
    strength, power, muscularity, brawn, brawniness, burliness, huskiness
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1informal A person or people exhibiting physical power or strength.
      ‘an ex-marine of enormous proportions who'd been brought along as muscle’
      • ‘By this time both sides had brought some professional muscle to bear on proceedings.’
      • ‘Louis was the sort of low-grade man child that shoestring celebrities often employ as muscle to keep up appearances and work as a butler.’
      • ‘The former uses hired thugs to enforce repayment from the debtors; the latter employs the Feds as paid muscle.’
      • ‘If the Sopranos ever need some muscle they should drop by the Flamingo.’
      • ‘I really hope he cuts a deal and brings in the hired muscle.’
    2. 2.2 Power or influence, especially in a commercial or political context.
      ‘he had enough muscle and resources to hold his position on the council’
      • ‘Australia has given more than one million dollars to help the process along and it could still be asked to supply judicial muscle to the international tribunal.’
      • ‘His Parliamentary opponents delightedly congratulated each other on their unprecedented exhibition of constitutional muscle.’
      • ‘And the only way to do that is to use the industrial and political muscle that unions have because individuals can't make a lot of difference.’
      • ‘Consumer and other civic interest groups also put their feet in the door, though they found it much harder to exercise effective political muscle.’
      • ‘Behind the scenes, a bit of diplomatic muscle was brought to bear.’
      • ‘The history of the first group of wines has been heavily influenced, nay hampered, by the commercial muscle of protectionist Bordeaux.’
      • ‘With European animation companies supplying the creative juice and the US bringing their marketing muscle to bear, these could be profitable for all concerned.’
      • ‘But he needed some financial muscle, a little fiscal clout to open a few doors for him.’
      • ‘These groups are easy targets because they don't have the political muscle or the money.’
      • ‘Did you applaud the hauliers and farmers and gleefully hope that their muscle would bring down the cost of fuel?’
      • ‘They'd just pay their better players more, and use their financial muscle to build a dominant team.’
      • ‘This is a clear case of a multinational conglomerate using its political muscle to the disadvantage of everyone but itself.’
      • ‘Countries needed to put political muscle behind health improvement measures, he added.’
      • ‘It is a clever strategy, which has the double benefit of emphasising the Chancellor's political muscle while displaying the weakness of his rival.’
      • ‘Public officials must provide the political muscle and resources to implement these programs.’
      • ‘These offer the prospect of being able to mobilise grassroots lobbying muscle to influence policy makers.’
      • ‘Sent this book by someone with less commercial muscle, his editors would unquestionably have demanded a thorough overhaul.’
      • ‘But it is an election year and these groups are ready to flex the political muscle.’
      • ‘The government would provide money to groups of volunteers to give financial muscle to land care projects across the nation.’
      • ‘The truth is, governments and governments alone have the financial and political muscle that can deliver real change.’
      influence, power, strength, might, force, forcefulness, weight, potency
      View synonyms


North American
  • 1with object and adverbial Move (an object) in a particular direction by using one's physical strength.

    ‘they were muscling baggage into the hold of the plane’
    • ‘The silver of the cuffs that bind his hands together behind his back glint as they muscle him down in the direction of the street below, where many sprawling police cars have gathered.’
    • ‘The six-liter, 325-horsepower turbo diesel engine can muscle you up loose inclines and keep you in the passing lane.’
    • ‘His strength allows him to muscle shots even when he doesn't put the bat's sweet spot on the ball.’
    • ‘He was a young kid, and now they were going to muscle him out of there.’
    • ‘This chef is a meat man, of course, an aggressive, boisterous character used to spending long hours muscling chickens and slabs of beef over a hot open flame.’
    • ‘It moves by rolling, log-style, or by lifting its head or tail, inchworm-like, and muscling itself forward.’
    • ‘He muscles the log toward the opposite bank, crouches atop a slick boulder, and steadies the log.’
    • ‘It was muscling its way onto shore, hands sinking deeply into the sand.’
    • ‘A third-generation Marine, he lugged the same heavy pack, muscled the same kind of machine gun into his foxhole at night and took the same risks as any of the bigger men.’
    1. 1.1 Coerce by violence or by economic or political pressure.
      ‘he was eventually muscled out of business’
      • ‘I was driving to work one morning recently when a gentleman in a big Sports Utility Vehicle barreled down on me from a side street and muscled his way into the line of morning traffic.’
      • ‘We see it every day on our way to work, a street scene replicated city-wide: white-collar execs hailing taxis on every street corner, muscling others out of the way for the comfort of air-conditioned interiors.’
      • ‘He suffered the further indignity of almost being muscled out of the party by executives who wanted to strip him of his riding nomination.’
      • ‘The government also seem to have muscled out the UN in the reconstruction programme.’
      • ‘And Labour MPs have not just muscled this off the agenda in the run-up to the General Election expected next summer only to see it reappear in the autumn.’


  • not move a muscle

    • Be completely motionless.

      • ‘Ricky didn't move a muscle, but inside he felt so sick.’
      • ‘In any case, he didn't move a muscle - indeed, he appeared uncharacteristically calm - as I advanced slowly but steadily in his direction.’
      • ‘In fact, he didn't move a muscle, though his mind was going a mile a minute.’
      • ‘He didn't say anything and didn't move a muscle.’
      • ‘She stood trembling slightly, but didn't move a muscle.’
      • ‘I don't move a muscle, keeping my face completely unreadable.’
      • ‘She didn't move a muscle, except for the slight spasm in her hand.’
      • ‘Gregory didn't move a muscle as this stranger approached them.’
      • ‘Caroline didn't move a muscle, but processed this information carefully.’
      • ‘Her wild curls whip around her face, but she doesn't move a muscle.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • muscle in/into

    • Force one's way into (something), typically in order to gain an advantage.

      ‘muscling his way into meetings and important conferences’
      ‘he was determined to muscle in on the union's affairs’
      • ‘I also thought that, as a gay man, I represented the minority of the ‘at risk’ group, and therefore I would be muscling my way in on something that should really be someone else's issue.’
      • ‘However, supermarkets have been muscling in on the market too, stocking a range of foodstuffs - importantly bringing the notion of Fairtrade to a wider audience.’
      • ‘Somehow this company muscling into our market was never going to take off.’
      • ‘There was a guy that I went to college with who ran the Fair, so we kinda muscled our way in.’
      • ‘But other criminal elements are muscling in on the business, including 10-year-old boys who have astounded the authorities with their audacity.’
      • ‘A new budget hotel chain has muscled into the market there with a somewhat spurious name.’
      • ‘I'm sure physicists don't want us muscling in on their territory.’
      • ‘It has muscled into this market and has grown to a reasonable size.’
      • ‘The Strathclyde source also revealed his associates have been trying to muscle into the drugs trade in Edinburgh and Glasgow.’
      • ‘Was this Kelley's way of getting back at me for muscling in on his life?’
      • ‘Foreign distillers are muscling in on a bubbling domestic market’
      • ‘In addition, detectives were probing allegations that members of paramilitary organisations were muscling in on the industry.’
      • ‘Now they want to make your phone ring, and are muscling into the lucrative mobile market.’
      • ‘That could mean new launches will find it harder to muscle into the territory without deep pockets.’
      • ‘Hedge-fund managers are now muscling in on traditional managers of pension funds and other pools of capital.’
      • ‘But even though the stamp conference was attracting greater numbers, it was the politicians who appeared to be muscling in on the stamp collectors' space.’
      • ‘Haven't the judges done enough harm already by muscling in on the political arena?’
      • ‘The superiority lasted only until the ninth minute, when Makel muscled into the script.’
      • ‘The nuclear energy industry is also muscling in on this one.’
      • ‘But if you were running a commercial legal practice, in addition to this heightened conservatism you'd hardly welcome qualified social workers muscling into family law practices.’
      interfere with, force one's way into, elbow one's way in on, butt in on, impose oneself on, encroach on
      View synonyms
  • muscle up

    • Build up one's muscles.

      • ‘They're better than squats for muscling up the quads and targeting different areas, and they're safer, too.’
      • ‘In my neck of the woods these sleek silver specimens, muscled up with the rich feeding of the ocean, are often called ‘greyhounds of the sea‘.’
      • ‘Of particular interest: trout that muscle up rapidly on environmentally friendly, grain-based feeds, made from oats or barley, for instance.’
      • ‘I'd thought beforehand that he looked far from racing fit, very fat and not muscled up at all.’
      • ‘Even easygainers often have trouble muscling up this area.’
      • ‘They're strong, don't get me wrong, but they're not all muscled up.’
      • ‘They all looked spectacular, all muscled up and filled out.’
      • ‘The 31-year-old did play semipro football for a number of years, and he began lifting weights six years ago to muscle up.’
      • ‘These 10 tips for triceps training will help you muscle up the back of your arms in the shortest time possible.’
      • ‘If there's one bodypart that hardgainers have extra difficulty muscling up, it's thighs.’
      • ‘He finally has gotten serious about his weight problem and has trimmed down and muscled up during the offseason.’
      • ‘With his size he does not have to muscle up to hit home runs.’
      • ‘But now the players are muscling up without bulking up.’
      • ‘Instead, the following triceps guide is designed to muscle up the back of your arms as fast as possible.’
      • ‘For the guy looking to muscle up and lean out, protein is a big part of the puzzle.’
      • ‘Deadlifts are foremost a lower-back exercise, but they muscle up your entire backside from your glutes to your neck.’
      • ‘Players may become bigger and stronger, and such muscling up certainly would help ‘a football linebacker or a professional wrestler or a saloon bouncer,’ he said.’


Late Middle English: from French, from Latin musculus, diminutive of mus ‘mouse’ (some muscles being thought to be mouse-like in form).