distress

noun
dis·​tress | \di-ˈstres \

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

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 \-​ˈstre-​siŋ-​lē \ 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 facing older brands is underscored by Coty Inc. Jaewon Kang, WSJ, "Celebrities Like Kylie Jenner Are Upending the $52 Billion Beauty Industry," 28 Nov. 2018 Citizens in retirement communities are reporting respiratory distress from the vapors of the microscopic red-tide organism called Karenia brevis. Kate Furby, The Seattle Times, "Red tide algae’s deadly toll on sea life has triggered a state of emergency in Florida," 14 Aug. 2018 Some patients will develop severe respiratory problems, including pneumonia or acute respiratory distress that would require mechanical assistance to breathe. Susan Scutti, CNN, "What you need to know about lethal Nipah virus," 23 May 2018 Health officials have warned that toxic gases pose the biggest threat and paper masks won't protect against dangerous sulfur dioxide, which can cause respiratory distress. Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, "Hawaii volcano has flung ash and rattled residents. Now it's taking a toll on the Big Island's economy.," 16 May 2018 The chemical, pentane, is prone to explosions, and spills can cause serious health problems including respiratory distress and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Anchorage Daily News, "Erupting Hawaii volcano could next spew 10-ton boulders from its summit, scientists say," 10 May 2018 Further, there has never been a case reported in medical literature of an otherwise asymptomatic and healthy child who suddenly developed serious respiratory distress or died days after being in water. Philly.com, "Drowning is never dry: Two ER doctors explain the real swimming danger kids face," 2 May 2018 The health threat includes worsened asthma, respiratory distress, cancer and heart disease. Kevin Spear, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Florida readies for Volkswagen's dirty-diesel dollars," 9 Apr. 2018 Write to Katy McLaughlin at katy.mclaughlin@wsj.com Free, confidential support for people in distress is offered by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline and web site. Katy Mclaughlin, WSJ, "A Reckoning With the Dark Side of the Restaurant Industry," 12 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

From the pilot to the finale, her cardigans were perfectly worn in, the jeans were distressed just so, and the coats were oversize without looking frumpy or sad. Mekita Rivas, Glamour, "20 Years Later, Felicity Is Still The Ultimate Fall Fashion Lookbook," 28 Sep. 2018 Though they may be distressed by the notion of 69-year-old Mr. Manafort spending decades in prison, Mr. Trump’s allies could spend their energy better by pointing out that the president was not involved in his schemes and was in fact used by him. Karl Rove, WSJ, "Cohen, Manafort and Midterms," 22 Aug. 2018 Following an awkward Group of Seven meeting in Quebec last month, Trump abruptly withdrew support from an economic agreement and unleashed a string of attacks against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, distressing longtime American allies. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, "Trump just kicked off his week in Europe — here’s where he is headed," 11 July 2018 The Tribune found instances in which students were repeatedly interviewed, which distressed them and risked muddying subsequent law enforcement cases. Gary Marx, chicagotribune.com, "CPS sex abuse findings result in proposals to change Illinois law," 6 June 2018 Both people with autism and those with anorexia tend to be rigid, detail-oriented and distressed by change. Maia Szalavitz, Scientific American, "Autism—It's Different in Girls," 1 Mar. 2016 Those demons, in part self-inflicted but most not, had haunted Houston since childhood, and their revelation will distress as well as shock. Graham Ambrose, BostonGlobe.com, "Darkness and light in Whitney Houston documentary," 4 July 2018 It is designed to relieve distressing symptoms such as pain, but is not based on prognosis and does not require a patient to forgo curative treatment. Stacey Burling, Philly.com, "How to know when it's time for hospice," 22 June 2018 For him, the hurricane is not the only weather factor distressing residents. Jose R. Gonzalez, Houston Chronicle, "Houston Summer Boat Show expects post-Harvey surge," 12 June 2018

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

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

Verb

see distress entry 1

Adjective

see distress entry 1

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Statistics for distress

Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

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 \

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 \

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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Comments on distress

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