American Dictionary of the English Language

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DISTEND, verb transitive [Latin , to tend, to stretch; to hold. Gr., to stretch.]

1. To stretch or spread in all directions; to dilate; to enlarge; to expand; to swell; as, to distend a bladder; to distend the bowels to distend the lungs. [This is the appropriate sense of the word.]

2. To spread apart; to divaricate; as, to distend the legs. We seldom say, to distend a plate of metal, and never, I believe, to distend a line; extend being used in both cases. We use distend chiefly to denote the stretching, spreading or expansion of any thing, by means of a substance inclosed within it, or by the elastic force of something inclosed. In this case the body distended swells or spreads in all directions, and usually in a spherical form. A bladder is distended by inflation, or by the expansion of rarefied air within it. The skin is distended in boils and abscesses, by matter generated within them. This appropriation of the word has not always been observed.