Word of the Day: lean

Word of the Day
February 15, 2016
lean (verb, adjective, noun)
/lin/  sound icon
A man leaning on a wall
To lean means 'to stand something at an angle' and 'to rest on something for support.' Figuratively, it is used as a synonym for 'to rely on someone' and, used with toward, it also means 'to usually agree with something or someone.' It also means 'to bend in one direction.' As an adjective, lean can refer to something thin and without fat, whether it is a person, an animal, or a piece of meat. It also means 'lacking content.' As a noun, a lean is an angle or an inclination.


Example sentences
Teresa leaned the ladder against the wall.
Steve leaned on the window sill, looking out at the garden.
You know, if you ever have problems, you can always lean on me.
The candidate made some good arguments and many people are now leaning toward her views.
Because of the main wind direction, this tree leans to the south.
The athlete's body was firm and lean.
This essay seems a little lean to me. Could you add more substance?
The ground was not very stable and the house had developed a distinct lean.


Multi-word forms
lean in: to incline your body towards someone, often in order to hear them better or reassure them. Example: "The little girl was soft-spoken and Dawn leaned in so she could hear her better." In recent years, lean in has also taken on a new figurative meaning, after the publication of Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In. The phrasal verb in the title of the book urges women to take charge of their lives and careers and be more assertive, especially when they are in primarily male environments.
Additional information
In the senses relating to support, whether literal or figurative, lean is most often used with the prepositions on or against.
Did you know?
As well as meaning 'to rely on someone,' informally, lean on someone can also mean to put pressure on a person. Example: "The gang members were leaning on the business owner to pay them protection money."
Other forms
leanly (adverb), leanness (noun)
Lean dates back to before the 9th century. We can trace it from the Old English word hleonian or hlinian through the Middle English word lenen, and it's related to the Latin word clīnāre, meaning 'to lean,' and the Greek word klí̄nein. It's similar to the German word lehnen.

Lean in other languages
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