duress

play
noun du·ress \du̇-ˈres also dyu̇-\
Updated on: 26 Jul 2017

Definition of duress

law

  1. 1 :  forcible restraint or restriction while the German army was still held in duress by the Versailles treaty — S. L. A. Marshall

  2. 2 :  compulsion (see compulsion 1a) by threat gave the statement under duress; specifically :  unlawful constraint held under duress

duress was our Word of the Day on 09/01/2013. Hear the podcast!

Examples of duress in a Sentence

  1. He gave the information under duress.

  2. complied with the order only under duress

Recent Examples of duress from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'duress.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

When Should You Use duress?

Duress is a word of hardy stock. It has been a part of the English language since the 14th century, and has a number of long-lived relatives. "Duress" itself came into Middle English through the Anglo-French duresce (meaning "hardness" or "severity"), which stems from Latin durus, meaning "hard." Some obvious relatives of this robust root are "durable," "endure" and "obdurate" (meaning "unyielding" or "hardened in feelings"). Some others are "dour" (meaning "harsh," "unyielding," or "gloomy") and "during."

Origin and Etymology of duress

Middle English duresse, from Anglo-French duresce hardness, severity, from Latin duritia, from durus —see during


Financial Definition of DURESS

duress

What It Is

Duress is pressure that one person or entity puts on another person to do something that he or she would normally not do.

How It Works

Let's say Artie owns a restaurant called Vesuvio. One day, a big bald guy comes into the place and tells Artie that he has to sign a contract to start buying linens from his friend or he'll "make life hard."

Artie, fearing that he'll be harmed physically or that the restaurant will be vandalized, agrees to buy linens from the friend, even though they cost twice as much as those from other distributors.

Artie has made the agreement under duress.

Why It Matters

Using force, false imprisonment, threats or psychological pressure to make someone do something he or she normally wouldn't do is illegal and can negate any contracts that result from duress.

Accordingly, in our example, if Artie were brave enough to stop buying the linens, he could tell the court that he signed the contract under duress.


DURESS Defined for English Language Learners

duress

play
noun

Definition of duress for English Language Learners

  • : force or threats meant to make someone do something


Law Dictionary

duress

play
noun du·ress \du̇-ˈres, dyu̇-\

Legal Definition of duress

  1. :  wrongful and usually unlawful compulsion (as threats of physical violence) that induces a person to act against his or her will :  coercion; also :  the affirmative defense of having acted under duress — see also economic duress — compare necessity, undue influence

Additional Notes on duress

A person may be able to avoid the consequences of his or her acts under the law if they were performed while under duress. For example, a contract made under duress is voidable by the coerced party. Similarly, a will signed under duress is invalid. Duress may also be used to justify a criminal act.

Origin and Etymology of duress

Anglo-French duresce, literally, hardness, harshness, from Old French, from Latin duritia, from durus hard



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