distress

noun
dis·​tress | \ di-ˈstres How to pronounce distress (audio) \

Definition of distress

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 law

a : seizure and detention of the goods of another as pledge (see pledge entry 1 sense 1) or to obtain satisfaction of a claim by the sale of the goods seized
b : something that is distrained
2a : pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind : trouble gastric distress The patient showed no obvious signs of distress. severe emotional distress voiced their distress over the delays
b : a painful situation : misfortune
3 : a state of danger or desperate need a ship in distress

distress

verb
distressed; distressing; distresses

Definition of distress (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to subject to great strain or difficulties homes distressed by poverty
2 archaic : to force or overcome by inflicting pain
3 : to cause to worry or be troubled : upset don't let the news distress you
4 : to mar (something, such as clothing or wood) deliberately to give an effect of age a distressed table distressed jeans

distress

adjective

Definition of distress (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : offered for sale at a loss distress merchandise
2 : involving distress goods a distress sale

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Other Words from distress

Verb

distressingly \ di-​ˈstre-​siŋ-​lē How to pronounce distressingly (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for distress

Noun

distress, suffering, misery, agony mean the state of being in great trouble. distress implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress. the hurricane put everyone in great distress suffering implies conscious endurance of pain or distress. the suffering of famine victims misery stresses the unhappiness attending especially sickness, poverty, or loss. the homeless live with misery every day agony suggests pain too intense to be borne. in agony over the death of their child

Examples of distress in a Sentence

Noun

Citizens voiced their distress over delays in fixing the problem. The patient showed no obvious signs of distress. He suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the accident.

Verb

don't let all the bad news distress you
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The distress over no juicy, crispy Popeyes chicken sandwiches has upset customers so much that one even pulled a gun at a restaurant in Houston after being told there were no more. Kendall Trammell, CNN, "Popeyes says you can BYOB (that's B for Bun) and make yourself a chicken sandwich," 12 Sep. 2019 The distress call crackled on Coast Guard radios around 3:15 a.m. Monday. Los Angeles Times, "Dozens were trapped below deck in California boat fire," 3 Sep. 2019 Tucker sings, somehow lending the matter-of-fact memory of the father’s distress a tone that feels just right, at once forever traumatized and preternaturally sage. David Cantwell, The New Yorker, "Tanya Tucker’s New Album Might Be the Best of Her Long, Underrated Career," 23 Aug. 2019 But the study also found that the bill exacerbated the financial distress of working-class Americans by taking away the protection that bankruptcy offered in the event of a major medical emergency. Michael Steinberger, New York Times, "Joe Biden Wants to Take America Back to a Time Before Trump," 23 July 2019 The first distress calls arrived just before 1 p.m. One person on the boat made it to shore after the sinking, but another person still was in the water, Dutter said. Rick Hurd, The Mercury News, "Rescue crews respond after boat sinks in Bay Point," 8 July 2019 Many of us have experienced the distress of realizing our passport isn't ready for an upcoming trip and, as a result, scramble to find a last-minute solution. Darla Guillen Gilthorpe, Houston Chronicle, "FedEx now allows travelers to receive passports in as quickly as 1 day," 5 July 2019 That’s often how women have been portrayed in storytelling — as the damsel in the distress. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, "From Spider-Man to Midsommar, 10 movies to see this Fourth of July weekend," 5 July 2019 The thoughts soon receded, a sign of progress from the first year after the fire, when the distress felt chronic, draining her spirit day after endless day. Martin Kuz, The Christian Science Monitor, "After California wildfires, what survivors say they gained from loss," 3 Apr. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The film begins with a deadly, insurmountably distressing incident in Dani’s family, which stalls the separation that’s been looming between her and Christian. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Ari Aster’s Midsommar Is a Sun-Drenched Horror Triumph," 2 July 2019 The pattern replicated in this case should distress every American who depends on reliable, disinterested research from government science agencies — that is, all of us. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Trump’s trashing of NOAA’s scientific reputation is part of his war on science," 9 Sep. 2019 However, to throw away the sole woman of color on the show—as if her five-season run was all for nothing—was distressing to many. Jill Gutowitz, Glamour, "The Women of Game of Thrones Deserve Better Than This Season," 8 May 2019 Passenger horror stories spread through angry Twitter rants and distressing posts on Facebook. Dallas News, "Canceled flights, wrecked vacations and leaky planes: Passenger frustrations rise as American Airlines struggles," 23 Aug. 2019 Dear Liz: My wife is distressed by your recent column about how many multiples of salary are needed to retire. Liz Weston | Nerdwallet.com, oregonlive.com, "Liz Weston: More on savings guidelines for retirement benefits," 21 July 2019 And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky, when the stars are strung across the velvety night, and when shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish. Dorrine Mendoza, CNN, "Robin Williams: His advice still matters," 11 Aug. 2019 Some residents of the city were distressed by the president’s visit. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Trump arrives in El Paso after staying largely out of public view in Dayton," 7 Aug. 2019 The possibility itself is distressing at a pre-rational level. James Parker, The Atlantic, "Why Yesterday Made Me Cry," 11 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'distress.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of distress

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for distress

Noun, Verb, and Adjective

Middle English destresse, from Anglo-French destresce, from Vulgar Latin *districtia, from Latin districtus, past participle of distringere — see distrain

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Statistics for distress

Last Updated

19 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for distress

The first known use of distress was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for distress

distress

noun

English Language Learners Definition of distress

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: unhappiness or pain : suffering that affects the mind or body
: a very difficult situation in which you do not have enough money, food, etc.
of a boat, airplane, etc. : a state of danger or desperate need

distress

verb

English Language Learners Definition of distress (Entry 2 of 2)

: to worry or upset (someone)

distress

noun
dis·​tress | \ di-ˈstres How to pronounce distress (audio) \

Kids Definition of distress

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : physical or mental pain or suffering
2 : a state of danger or desperate need The ship was in distress.

distress

verb
distressed; distressing

Kids Definition of distress (Entry 2 of 2)

: to upset or cause to worry The news distressed her.

Other Words from distress

distressingly \ di-​ˈstre-​siŋ-​lē \ adverb

distress

noun
dis·​tress | \ dis-ˈtres How to pronounce distress (audio) \

Medical Definition of distress

: pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind gastric distress respiratory distress

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distress

noun
dis·​tress

Legal Definition of distress

1 : seizure and detention of the goods of another as pledge or to obtain satisfaction of a claim by the sale of the goods seized specifically : seizure by a landlord of a tenant's property to obtain satisfaction of arrearages in rent

Note: Distress is regulated by statute where available. It has been held unconstitutional by some courts.

2 : pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind — see also emotional distress

History and Etymology for distress

Anglo-French destrece, literally, tightness, anguish, deprivation, from Old French, ultimately from Late Latin districtus severe, from past participle of distringere to hinder, punish — see distrain

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