Every online dictionary tells me that a 'stride' is a 'long step'. (Or a 'long decisive step', 'long confident step' etc.)

And yet, a search for 'short strides' produces thousands of results.

Even something as specific as 'short, measured strides' is present in several literary texts (as per relevant Google search); a David Baldacci book has 'short, halting strides'.

Is it wrong usage, or does 'stride' have a more general meaning than what dictionaries suggest?

  • 5
    Stride 'implicates' but does not 'entail' length, so unqualified stride implies a longish step; but an implicature is cancellable, so a short stride is acceptable. Mar 16, 2017 at 15:21
  • My wife complains about my short stride all the time. If only she would stop starching my underwear.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 16, 2017 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


Stride refers to a step. The connotation of a long one comes from the origin of the term (see below) but it may refer to an "ordinary" step.

  • "a step in walking," especially a long one, from Old English stride "a stride, a step."

    The sense connection in the various Germanic forms is perhaps "strive, make a strong effort;" the senses having to do with walking and standing are found only in English and Low German.

Meaning "to walk with long or extended steps" is from c. 1200. The notion behind the English usage might be the effort involved in making long strides, striving forward.


  • 2
    The way Etymonline defines stride ('especially a long one') clarifies it for me. My confusion was because no dictionary I checked said anything about 'especially' or 'usually'.
    – Bepe
    Mar 16, 2017 at 15:35
  • It doesn't affect your basic answer, but the OED disagrees with this etymology: "This [derivation from "strive"] would in itself be possible, but sense 1 ["to stand or walk with legs widely diverging" c. 700] would remain unexplained. The assumption of a primary sense ‘to diverge’ (compare Sanskrit sridh to go astray) would account plausibly on the one hand for the sense ‘to quarrel’, and on the other hand for the sense ‘to straddle’, from which the sense ‘to take long steps’ would be a natural development." —"stride, v." OED Online.
    – 1006a
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:42
  • @1006a - interesting, I don't have access to the OED and I was just trying to provide a hint as to why "stride" came to mean "long step". The "strive" connection could make sense, but, as you show,the original sense is not clear.
    – user66974
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:47
  • You get the idea that Shakespeare had in mind a sense of length: "He doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men..."
    – Airymouse
    Mar 16, 2017 at 21:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.