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

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 No-one wants to see their child in pain, and seeing a younger woman clearly in distress hit home for a lot of people. Olivia Fleming, Harper's BAZAAR, "Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher Open Up About Confronting Jeff Flake in the Elevator," 29 Oct. 2018 Public safety crews responded at 5:22 p.m. to a report of a swimmer in distress, police said in a press release. Adam Sennott, BostonGlobe.com, "Man dies after being pulled from water in Bourne; latest in rash of drownings," 13 July 2018 Image His lawyers said that saving people in distress was the golden rule of anyone out at sea, and that governments were using charities’ work as a political statement to press for closed borders at the European Union level. Gaia Pianigiani, New York Times, "Malta Cracks Down on a Humanitarian Ship That Carried Migrants," 2 July 2018 On May 23, a game warden was alerted by one of his neighbors of a deer in distress. Houston Chronicle, "Game warden field notes," 1 July 2018 Anyone who sees marine mammals in distress is asked to call NOAA Fisheries Alaska 24-hour stranding hotline at 877-925-7773. Laurel Andrews, Anchorage Daily News, "Humpback whale found dead in Southeast Alaska likely hit by a ship, officials say," 5 June 2018 So advisers must disclose any potential conflicts of interest to a court before they are approved to work for a firm in distress. The Economist, "McKinsey manages to get itself sued for racketeering," 19 May 2018 Prediction for the season: The erstwhile Commander Lexa spent way too long as a veritable damsel in distress, finally growing into the role of post-apocalyptic soldier toward the end of season three. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Fear the Walking Dead': Where Everyone Left Off and What's Next (After the Big Crossover)," 8 Apr. 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

16 Nov 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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