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a small, hard seed, especially the seed of a food plant such as wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice, or millet.
the gathered seed of food plants, especially of cereal plants.
such plants collectively.
any small, hard particle, as of sand, gold, pepper, or gunpowder.
the smallest unit of weight in most systems, originally determined by the weight of a plump grain of wheat. In the U.S. and British systems, as in avoirdupois, troy, and apothecaries’ weights, the grain is identical. In an avoirdupois ounce there are 437.5 grains; in the troy and apothecaries’ ounces there are 480 grains (one grain equals 0.0648 gram).
the smallest possible amount of anything:
a grain of truth.
the arrangement or direction of fibers in wood, or the pattern resulting from this.
the direction in which the fibers of a piece of dressed wood, as a board, rise to the surface:
You should work with or across the grain, but never against.
the side of leather from which the hair has been removed.
a stamped pattern that imitates the natural grain of leather: used either on leather to simulate a different type of natural leather, or on coated cloth.

the fibers or yarn in a piece of fabric as differentiated from the fabric itself.
the direction of threads in a woven fabric in relation to the selvage.

the lamination or cleavage of stone, coal, etc.
Metallurgy. any of the individual crystalline particles forming a metal.
Jewelry. a unit of weight equal to 50 milligrams or ¼ carat, used for pearls and sometimes for diamonds.
the size of constituent particles of any substance; texture:
sugar of fine grain.
a granular texture or appearance:
a stone of coarse grain.
a state of crystallization:
boiled to the grain.
temper or natural character:
two brothers of similar grain.
Rocketry. a unit of solid propellant.
Obsolete. color or hue.
to form into grains; granulate.
to give a granular appearance to.
to paint in imitation of the grain of wood, stone, etc.:
metal doors grained to resemble oak.
to feed grain to (an animal).

to remove the hair from (skins).
to soften and raise the grain of (leather).

against the / one’s grain, in opposition to one’s temper, inclination, or character:
Haggling always went against her grain.
with a grain of salt. 1 (def 23).
Contemporary Examples

[The media] has said a million things about me and my family, and sometimes you have to take things with a grain of salt.
Shopping with Levi Johnston Renata Espinosa June 15, 2009

But some took this advice with a grain of salt, since Pakistan could be deflecting from its recent battered image.
Day 5: Breaking News on Osama bin Laden’s Death The Daily Beast May 5, 2011

Stalin, now one of the top men in the party, was sent there by Lenin to ensure that grain was getting shipped to Moscow.
Kotkin Biography Reveals Stalin’s Evil Pragmatism William O’Connor November 29, 2014

That version of events sounds plausible enough, but perhaps we should take them with a grain of salt.
Abrams and Iran: There He Goes Again Ali Gharib October 7, 2012

The very concept of arming oneself was odious to him—it cut against the grain of his Gandhian principles.
Exclusive Excerpt: MLK’s Haunting Final Hours Hampton Sides April 23, 2010

Historical Examples

grain will be in demand in this kingdom, and in the south of Europe.
The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, Vol. I Various

Sensations give the grain to the wood, the depth and dignity to the picture.
The Green Carnation Robert Smythe Hichens

Around Paris there is a short supply of grain, or it is spoilt1105.
The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 2 (of 6) Hippolyte A. Taine

The grain Aphis, in certain years, desolates our wheat fields.
Our Common Insects Alpheus Spring Packard

It should take 10 ounces in each pan, and show 1/20 of a grain.
The A B C of Mining Charles A. Bramble

the small hard seedlike fruit of a grass, esp a cereal plant
a mass of such fruits, esp when gathered for food
the plants, collectively, from which such fruits are harvested
a small hard particle: a grain of sand

the general direction or arrangement of the fibrous elements in paper or wood: to saw across the grain
the pattern or texture of wood resulting from such an arrangement: the attractive grain of the table

the relative size of the particles of a substance: sugar of fine grain

the granular texture of a rock, mineral, etc
the appearance of a rock, mineral, etc, determined by the size and arrangement of its constituents

the outer (hair-side) layer of a hide or skin from which the hair or wool has been removed
the pattern on the outer surface of such a hide or skin

a surface artificially imitating the grain of wood, leather, stone, etc; graining
the smallest unit of weight in the avoirdupois, Troy, and apothecaries’ systems, based on the average weight of a grain of wheat: in the avoirdupois system it equals 1/7000 of a pound, and in the Troy and apothecaries’ systems it equals 1/5760 of a pound. 1 grain is equal to 0.0648 gram gr
Also called metric grain. a metric unit of weight used for pearls or diamonds, equal to 50 milligrams or one quarter of a carat
the threads or direction of threads in a woven fabric
(photog) any of a large number of particles in a photographic emulsion, the size of which limit the extent to which an image can be enlarged without serious loss of definition
(television) a granular effect in a television picture caused by electrical noise
cleavage lines in crystalline material, parallel to growth planes
(chem) any of a large number of small crystals forming a polycrystalline solid, each having a regular array of atoms that differs in orientation from that of the surrounding crystallites
a state of crystallization: to boil syrup to the grain
a very small amount: a grain of truth
natural disposition, inclination, or character (esp in the phrase go against the grain)
(astronautics) a homogenous mass of solid propellant in a form designed to give the required combustion characteristics for a particular rocket
(not in technical usage) kermes or a red dye made from this insect
(dyeing) an obsolete word for colour
with a grain of salt, with a pinch of salt, without wholly believing: sceptically
verb (mainly transitive)
(also intransitive) to form grains or cause to form into grains; granulate; crystallize
to give a granular or roughened appearance or texture to
to paint, stain, etc, in imitation of the grain of wood or leather

to remove the hair or wool from (a hide or skin) before tanning
to raise the grain pattern on (leather)


early 13c., “scarlet dye made from insects” (late 12c. in surnames), from Old French grain (12c.) “seed, grain, particle, berry, scarlet dye” (see kermes for last sense), from Latin granum “seed, a grain, small kernel” (see corn (n.1)).

As a collective singular meaning “seed of wheat and allied grasses used as food,” it is attested from early 14c. Extended from c.1300 to other objects (e.g. salt, sand). As a unit of weight, from 1540s. Used of wood (1560s), from the arrangement of fibers, which resemble seeds. Hence, against the grain (1650), a metaphor from carpentry: cutting across the fibers of the wood is more difficult than cutting along them.

grain (grān)

A small, dry, one-seeded fruit of a cereal grass, having the fruit and the seed walls united.

The fruits of cereal grasses especially after having been harvested, considered as a group.

A relatively small discrete particulate or crystalline mass.

Abbr. gr. A unit of weight in the U.S. Customary System, an avoirdupois unit equal to 0.002286 ounce (0.065 gram).


See caryopsis.

A small particle of something, such as salt, pollen, or sand.

A unit of weight in the US Customary System, equal to 2/1000 of an ounce (0.07 gram). See Table at measurement.


Marijuana; grass, pot: You been smoking too much grain. You head is juiced (1980s+ Narcotics)

A pictorial query language.
[“Pictorial Information Systems”, S.K. Chang et al eds, Springer 1980].


used, in Amos 9:9, of a small stone or kernel; in Matt. 13:31, of an individual seed of mustard; in John 12:24, 1 Cor. 15:37, of wheat. The Hebrews sowed only wheat, barley, and spelt; rye and oats are not mentioned in Scripture.


against the grain
with a grain of salt


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