distress

1 of 3

noun

dis·​tress di-ˈstres How to pronounce distress (audio)
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
2
a
: 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

2 of 3

verb

distressed; distressing; distresses

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
distressingly adverb

distress

3 of 3

adjective

1
: offered for sale at a loss
distress merchandise
2
: involving distress goods
a distress sale
Choose the Right Synonym for distress

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

Example Sentences

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
On Thursday, during a news conference, Jason Glenn, one of the four siblings, and his lawyer announced the lawsuit against the mortuary, citing negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Sydney Carruth, The Arizona Republic, 3 Mar. 2023 Humphrey’s lawsuit accuses Mercy Corps of intentional infliction of emotional distress. oregonlive, 24 Feb. 2023 The anti-Covid spending, combined with a crisis in the crucial real estate industry, is believed to have left provincial governments in financial distress and looking for ways to cut costs. Isaac Lee, NBC News, 17 Feb. 2023 Coleman is in the midst of a last-ditch effort to save the school, which has been in financial distress for years. al, 11 Feb. 2023 The pursuit of bankruptcy protection by LTL Management does not meet the bankruptcy code's intended purpose, since LTL Management is not in financial distress, the court opinion said. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 30 Jan. 2023 The lawsuit also lists record labels Interscope and Nothing Records as defendants, accusing the labels of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other charges. Jessica Wang, EW.com, 30 Jan. 2023 Cox is suing the officers and city for $100 million in federal court for alleged negligence, excessive use of force, failing to provide immediate medical care, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims. Dave Collins, ajc, 11 Jan. 2023 This classic fairy tale puts a refreshing twist on the age-old damsel-in-distress story. Good Housekeeping, 9 Jan. 2023
Verb
Seeking an immune-strengthening Vitamin C supplement that won't distress your stomach? Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 9 Nov. 2022 Even though Twitter's LOLs and IMOs and SMHs may distress some language purists, Eisenstein says Twitter is just a new twist on a classic story. Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 11 Sep. 2015 What should distress you even more is that, before this PR nightmare, the momentum had started to swing your way. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 27 Feb. 2012 Dogs can detect sound frequencies between two and three times higher than humans can, so loud noises can easily distress them. Griffin Wiles, The Indianapolis Star, 1 July 2022 Fireworks can distress and cause problems for animals, people at home, and those with post-traumatic stress disorder, said Brockton City Council President John Lally. Matt Yan, BostonGlobe.com, 14 June 2022 In their zeal to prepare for a shooting emergency on their campuses, school districts across the nation have gravitated toward hyperreal simulations like these, despite some experts’ concerns that the realism may distress or traumatize kids. Laura Newberrystaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 18 Apr. 2022 The rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce could severely distress China's economic and social stability. Nectar Gan And Steve George, CNN, 1 Dec. 2021 In 2017, a ship from the aid group Sea-Watch responded to distress calls from a sinking migrant boat. Ian Urbina, The New Yorker, 28 Nov. 2021
Adjective
But the policy itself, which requires all patients who test positive to be isolated, including young children and babies, has caused significant levels distress among parents. Simone Mccarthy And Yong Xiong, CNN, 4 Apr. 2022 The post-distress investing segment is particularly attractive right now. George Schultze, Forbes, 26 Oct. 2021 The attractiveness of investing in both public and private post-distress equities in this part of the cycle will likely remain very interesting for the medium-term. George Schultze, Forbes, 26 Oct. 2021 Both of these post-distress firms still look attractive on an after-tax cash flow basis versus their peers. George Schultze, Forbes, 16 Apr. 2021 Going forward, many more firms emerging from the COVID crisis will have large NOLs that can benefit their post-distress shareholders. George Schultze, Forbes, 16 Apr. 2021 Thys didn’t hang any of the flags upside down, but these are clearly distress symbols. Washington Post, 30 Oct. 2020 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Noun, Verb, and Adjective

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near distress

Cite this Entry

“Distress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distress. Accessed 28 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition

distress

1 of 2 noun
dis·​tress dis-ˈtres How to pronounce distress (audio)
1
: great suffering of body or mind : pain, anguish
2
: a painful situation : misfortune
3
: a condition of danger or desperate need
a ship in distress

distress

2 of 2 verb
1
: to cause to experience painful difficulties
2
: to cause to worry or be troubled : upset
distressingly adverb

Medical Definition

distress

noun
dis·​tress dis-ˈtres How to pronounce distress (audio)
: pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind
gastric distress
respiratory distress

Legal Definition

distress

noun
dis·​tress
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
Etymology

Noun

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

More from Merriam-Webster on distress

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