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 Dolphin choppers were checking for trouble, but had no immediate reports of any distress calls or search-and-rescue incidents as of mid-morning Wednesday. Brian Dakss, CBS News, "Hurricane Sally unleashes "catastrophic and life-threatening" flooding along Gulf Coast," 16 Sep. 2020 The new order came down last week — about a week after a Bexar County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Damian Daniels, an armed military veteran in mental distress. Brian Chasnoff, ExpressNews.com, "New rules for officers on mental health calls," 12 Sep. 2020 All morning in his office, a handheld radio relayed distress calls from dispatchers, each one the same: difficulty breathing, faintness. David Gauvey Herbert, The New Yorker, "COVID Silver Lining: The Porta-Potty Boom," 7 Sep. 2020 Several boats participating in a parade supporting President Donald Trump have made distress calls or sunk on Lake Travis in Texas. Sydney Maki, Bloomberg.com, "Boats Sink During Trump Parade on Lake Travis in Texas," 5 Sep. 2020 By the time police use fatal force against someone in mental distress, that person often has not had professional help and may be a danger to themselves or others, said John Snook, the center’s executive director. Washington Post, "Since 2015, police have fatally shot nearly 250 women. Like Taylor, 89 of them were killed at homes or residences where they sometimes stayed.," 4 Sep. 2020 The first involves driving into the bush and broadcasting distress calls of a prey species, such as a Cape buffalo, over a loudspeaker—then noting how many lions show up. Alexander Braczkowski, National Geographic, "Why we don’t really know how many lions live in Africa," 4 Sep. 2020 In the short term, a recent Hopkins survey from earlier this year found 14% of adults had serious mental distress during the pandemic, versus 4% before. Meredith Cohn, baltimoresun.com, "Mental health of young adults and those with no previous issues is suffering during pandemic, Hopkins experts say," 28 Aug. 2020 Alfred Olango was killed that day after being shot by police, who were responding to an emergency call regarding Olango experiencing mental distress. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Showing up for her community, continuing the work done by Black women before her," 8 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Many colleges and universities across the nation, distressed by the negative financial, academic and social impact of continued online learning, are scrambling to find ways to safely educate and provide for their students in the fall. Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, "How coronavirus could change college life: Outdoor classes, small group dorms, takeout dining," 30 Apr. 2020 McConnell’s plan would provide billions in loan guarantees to industries distressed by the crisis, such as the airlines, and offer billions in loan guarantees to small businesses. Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Democrats says McConnell stimulus plan falls short as both parties head into talks on coronavirus relief," 20 Mar. 2020 The changes were often distressing to the old guard. Suzanne Daley, New York Times, "Making the Front Page: How All the News Fits in Print," 23 Dec. 2019 Gardner said the news is distressing to many members of the campus community. Sean Mcdonnell, Cincinnati.com, "Ohio teen charged with killing her mother during argument," 5 Mar. 2020 And his posture has distressed the leaders in states where the virus is spreading exponentially - overwhelming hospitals, exhausting medical supply stockpiles and ravaging communities. Anchorage Daily News, "Governors frustrated with offer of ‘backup’," 27 Mar. 2020 In 2020, 38 counties in eastern Kentucky were deemed economically distressed by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Alfred Miller, The Courier-Journal, "KentuckyWired promised broadband and high-tech jobs. Will it ever deliver?," 15 Jan. 2020 In 2020, 38 counties in eastern Kentucky were deemed economically distressed by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Alfred Miller, ProPublica, "They Were Promised Broadband and High-Tech Jobs. They’re Still Waiting.," 15 Jan. 2020 British Embassy officials, many of whom hold Mr. Darroch in high regard, were distressed by the rapid-fire events that led to his decision to resign. Michael R. Gordon, WSJ, "Kim Darroch Resigns as U.K. Ambassador to U.S. After Leaked Cables," 10 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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Time Traveler for distress

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for distress

Last Updated

24 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Distress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distress. Accessed 27 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for distress

distress

noun
How to pronounce distress (audio)

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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