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
Because no young girl or boy grows up pretending to be a damsel in distress or a sidekick. Josh St. Clair, Men's Health, 28 Nov. 2022 Specifically, people in distress who can’t connect to Wi-Fi or a cellular network to call emergency services will be able to text them via satellite. Chris Smith, BGR, 24 Nov. 2022 The man who manages the truck told CNN the pair did not seem to be in distress or in danger in any way. Amanda Musa, CNN, 22 Nov. 2022 The Coast Guard responded to a distress signal from a 40-foot sail boat on Thursday located about 75 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a news release issued Saturday. Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY, 19 Sep. 2022 According to Portuguese authorities, the Felicity Ace was about 100 miles from the Azores, a constellation of small islands west of the Iberian Peninsula, when the ship made a morning distress call to report a fire in the cargo hold. Andrew Lawrence, Popular Mechanics, 14 Nov. 2022 The latest distress signal is revealed in a new Northwestern Mutual study, an annual survey of more than 2,000 adults on their attitudes and behaviors around money and financial planning. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 26 Oct. 2022 Boylan’s defense attorneys have said in previous filings that Boylan made a distress call but was overcome by smoke and jumped into the water. Phil Helsel, NBC News, 19 Oct. 2022 In general, the Alaska State Troopers take the lead when a distress signal comes in and handle most of the Search and Rescues that happen on land. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Oct. 2022
Verb
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 Within the last 12 months, to what extent did the following issue(s) cause you distress? Genny Beemyn, The Conversation, 5 Aug. 2021 But Brightline trains, many contended, would reduce property values, pose a safety risk from derailments, distress the mental health of students at schools near the tracks and threaten wildlife and wetlands in and near the community. Kevin Spear, orlandosentinel.com, 20 July 2021 His back legs kept giving out, too, which appeared to distress him. Cathy M. Rosenthal, San Antonio Express-News, 27 May 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 8 Dec. 2022.

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

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

More from Merriam-Webster on distress

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