straw / strô/ • n. 1. dried stalks of grain, used esp. as fodder or as material for thatching, packing, or weaving: [as adj.] a straw hat. ∎ a pale yellow color like that of straw: [as adj.] a dull straw color. ∎ used in reference to something insubstantial or worthless: it seemed as if the words were merely straw. ∎ anything or at all (used to emphasize how little something is valued): if he finds you here, my life won't be worth a straw. 2. a single dried stalk of grain: the tramp sat chewing a straw. ∎ a stalk of grain or something similar used in drawing lots: we had to draw straws for the food we had. 3. a thin hollow tube of paper or plastic for sucking drink from a glass or bottle. PHRASES: grasp (or clutch or catch) at straws (or a straw) be in such a desperate situation as to resort to even the most unlikely means of salvation. draw the short straw be the unluckiest of a group of people, esp. in being chosen to perform an unpleasant task. the last (or final) straw a further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself but coming on top of a whole series of difficulties, that makes a situation unbearable: his affair was the last straw. a straw in the wind a slight hint of future developments.DERIVATIVES: straw·y adj.
draw the short straw be the unluckiest of a group of people, especially in being chosen to perform an unpleasant task; with reference to a method drawing lots that involves holding several straws of varying lengths with one end concealed in the hand, and inviting other members of the group to take one each.
the final straw a further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself but coming on top of a whole series of difficulties, that makes a situation unbearable; with allusion to the proverb, it is the last straw that breaks the camel's back.
man of straw originally, a dummy or image made of straw; from this, a person compared to a straw image, a sham; a sham argument set up to be defeated.
straw poll an unofficial ballot conducted as a test of opinion. The term is recorded from the mid 20th century; the earlier straw vote dates (in the US) from 1866.
See also bricks without straw, a drowning man will clutch at a straw, straws.