Understanding the Idiom: "strung out" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The Origins of “strung out”

The exact origins of this idiom are unclear, but it likely comes from the idea of being strung up like a puppet on strings. In this context, being “strung out” would mean that you are completely at the mercy of external forces.

Usage Examples

“Strung out” can be used in a variety of contexts. Here are some examples:

  • After working long hours all week, I was completely strung out by Friday night.
  • He’s been strung out on heroin for years now.
  • The stress of finals week has left me feeling totally strung out.

As you can see, “strung out” is often used to describe physical or emotional exhaustion. However, it can also have darker connotations when referring to addiction. It’s important to use this idiom carefully and appropriately depending on the context.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “strung out”

The idiom “strung out” is a common phrase used in English language to describe someone who is exhausted, stressed or overwhelmed. The origins of this phrase can be traced back to the early 20th century when it was first used in American slang.

During the 1920s, jazz musicians started using the term “strung out” to describe their state of exhaustion after long hours of playing music. This term became popular among drug users during the 1960s and 1970s as they described their state of being under the influence for an extended period.

In its modern usage, “strung out” refers to a person who is physically or emotionally drained due to stress, anxiety or substance abuse. It has become a common expression in everyday conversations and popular culture.

The historical context surrounding this idiom reflects how language evolves over time and adapts to new cultural contexts. From its roots in jazz music to its current use in describing mental health issues, “strung out” has undergone significant changes while retaining its original meaning.

To better understand this idiom’s history and evolution, let us take a closer look at some examples from different periods:

Examples from Jazz Music

“I’m so strung-out I don’t know what day it is.” – Louis Armstrong
“We played all night long; by morning we were completely strung-out.” – Duke Ellington

Examples from Modern Usage

“I’ve been working overtime all week; I’m completely strung-out.” – A stressed-out office worker
“He’s been using drugs for months; he looks completely strung-out.” – A concerned friend

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “strung out”


The idiom “strung out” has a few variations that are commonly used. One variation is “feeling strung out”, which refers to feeling exhausted or overwhelmed due to stress or fatigue. Another variation is “strung up”, which means to be hung or suspended by something.


In terms of usage, the idiom “strung out” can be applied in different ways. For example, it can refer to someone who is addicted to drugs and experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It can also describe someone who is anxious or nervous about something, such as an upcoming event or deadline.

Additionally, “strung out” can be used in reference to physical objects that are stretched tightly between two points, such as guitar strings or clotheslines. It can also describe a situation where someone is being kept waiting for an extended period of time.

  • “I’m feeling so strung out lately with all these deadlines at work.”
  • “He’s been strung out on heroin for years now.”
  • “The clothesline was strung out across the backyard.”
  • “I’ve been waiting here for hours; I feel like I’m getting strung along.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “strung out”

To begin with, some synonyms for “strung out” include: exhausted, drained, worn-out, fatigued. These words convey a similar sense of being mentally or physically depleted. On the other hand, antonyms for “strung out” would be: energized, invigorated, refreshed. These words describe a state of feeling revitalized and full of energy.

Cultural insights can also shed light on how this idiom is used in different contexts. For example, in American English slang, “strung out” can refer to someone who is addicted to drugs and appears disheveled or unwell as a result. In contrast, in British English slang, “stringing someone along” means leading them on with false promises or insincere intentions.

Understanding these nuances can help us use idiomatic expressions more accurately and appropriately in different situations. By exploring synonyms and antonyms for “strung out”, we can expand our vocabulary and express ourselves more precisely. And by considering cultural references associated with this phrase, we gain insight into how language reflects social norms and values across different communities.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “strung out”

Get Moving

If you’re feeling strung out, one way to alleviate stress is through physical activity. Go for a run, take a yoga class, or even just take a walk around your neighborhood. Exercise releases endorphins which can help boost your mood and reduce anxiety.

Mindful Breathing

Incorporating mindful breathing exercises into your daily routine can also help manage feelings of being strung out. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably and focus on taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try counting to four as you inhale and exhale to regulate your breathing.

Remember that everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives. By incorporating these practical exercises into your routine, you can better manage those feelings of being strung out and find peace of mind.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “strung out”

Mistake #1: Using “strung up” instead of “strung out”

One common mistake is confusing “strung up” with “strung out.” While both phrases contain the word “strung,” they have very different meanings. To be “strung up” means to be hung by a rope or other material, while being “strung out” means to be emotionally or physically drained.

Mistake #2: Using the wrong preposition

Another mistake that people make when using this idiom is using the wrong preposition after it. For example, saying someone is “strung on drugs” instead of “strung out on drugs.” The correct preposition to use after this idiom is usually “out.”

  • Correct: She was strung out on caffeine after pulling an all-nighter.
  • Incorrect: He was strung on caffeine after pulling an all-nighter.

It’s important to pay attention to these small details so that you can use idioms correctly and avoid confusion.

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