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

Bird strikes on planes occur regularly around the world, even though airports use bird distress signals, air cannons and other methods to chase them away from runways. Fox News, "Hero Russian pilot bestowed nation's highest medal for 'miracle' cornfield landing: 'It feels odd and I'm shy'," 16 Aug. 2019 Bird strikes on planes occur regularly around the world, and airports use bird distress signals, air cannons and other means to chase birds away — measures which aren’t always efficient. Vladimir Isachenkov, BostonGlobe.com, "Photos: Russian pilot hailed as hero after emergency landing in cornfield," 15 Aug. 2019 Bird strikes on planes occur regularly around the world even though airports use bird distress signals, air cannons and other means to chase birds away from runways. Vladimir Isachenkov, Anchorage Daily News, "Russian pilot hailed as hero after bird strike disables jet," 15 Aug. 2019 Bird strikes on planes occur regularly around the world even though airports use bird distress signals, air cannons and other means to chase birds away from runways. Time, "Russian Airliner Lands Safely After Both Engines Fail – Drawing 'Miracle on the Hudson' Comparisons," 15 Aug. 2019 The brain send a distress signal, and the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released, as well as norepinephrine, dopamine. The Editors, Marie Claire, "Every Question About Anxiety You've Ever Had, Answered," 8 July 2019 Back in the ’80s, a highly advanced research vessel went missing near the Arctic Circle, only to suddenly reappear 40 years later, now sending a distress signal. Christian Holub, EW.com, "Exclusive: Joe Hill is writing and overseeing a new line of DC horror comics," 26 June 2019 When a stressor occurs, the amygdala region perceives the threat and sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which acts like a command center. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "What Science Says About Why You're Stressed and How to Cope," 21 June 2019 That includes the rule that the flag should never be dipped to any person or thing, and the flag is flown upside down only as a distress signal. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Everything You Need to Know About American Flag Etiquette," 15 May 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Families of the dead were distressed by conspiracy theories that began to circulate before any official account of the attack could counter them. Patrick Smith, NBC News, "MH17 attack probe accused 4 men of murder — here's why," 20 June 2019 Nintendo is laying the 3DS to rest without a proper funeral, and that’s distressing. Brittany Vincent, Popular Mechanics, "With the New Switch Lite, Nintendo (Unofficially) Kills the 3DS," 10 July 2019 Americans may love to celebrate Independence Day with colorful displays of fireworks, but our furry friends can find the loud noises distressing. Helen Murphy, PEOPLE.com, "Florida Inmates Will Cuddle Shelter Dogs Who Are Distressed by Fireworks this Fourth of July," 4 July 2019 The amount of distressing information in the report is overwhelming, but there is an easy way for animal lovers, who also love to travel, to take action. Kelli Bender, PEOPLE.com, "Neglectful Sanctuaries and Poached Animals: New Report Reveals the Dark Side of Wildlife Tourism," 7 June 2019 Yes, comforting a child who is hurt or distressed is what parenting is all about. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Generous friend is overwhelmed by ‘gimmes’," 24 June 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

7 Sep 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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Comments on distress

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