du·ress | \du̇-ˈres also dyu̇- \

Definition of duress 


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

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

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Duress: Its Origin and Relations

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.

Examples of duress in a Sentence

He gave the information under duress. complied with the order only under duress

Recent Examples on the Web

Fleury's calmness under duress and sunny personality set the tone for a team that likes to see itself as a merry band of misfits but is much better than that. Helene Elliott, latimes.com, "Golden Knights vs. Capitals: How Vegas and Washington match up in the Stanley Cup Final," 27 May 2018 The second inning had no such duress, and much better fastball command. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey's four-inning stint in Bowie shows promise, work left to be done," 16 May 2018 He's proven capable of escaping the pocket when under duress and still finding open men downfield. Josh Katzenstein, NOLA.com, "Saints ready for test against efficient Vikings quarterback Case Keenum," 11 Jan. 2018 Last year, Brady made more big-time throws under heavy pocket duress than any QB save for maybe Carson Wentz. Andy Benoit, SI.com, "Brady and Gronk Stay Home; What Does That Mean for The Patriot Way?," 20 Apr. 2018 He was particularly impressed with Bryant’s ability to hang tough in the pocket while under duress. Steve Reaven, chicagotribune.com, "From cornerback to quarterback, JJ Dutton ready to lead Lyons," 9 July 2018 The primary difference is that their discovery comes under duress. Peter Dunn, USA TODAY, "Not interested in retiring? You still need a financial plan to deal with eventualities," 25 May 2018 The primary difference is that their discovery comes under duress, and some decisions and processes which would have made their reality a bit easier, are no longer possible. Peter Dunn, Indianapolis Star, "Pete the Planner: How to retire on Social Security when you can no longer work," 23 May 2018 The agreements can be thrown out if judges deem them unfair, or signed too quickly or under duress. Ben Steverman, latimes.com, "Your prenup might be in jeopardy as tax overhaul kills alimony break," 23 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of duress

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for duress

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

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

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durfee grass


Statistics for duress

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for duress

The first known use of duress was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for duress



Financial Definition of 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.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of duress

: force or threats meant to make someone do something


du·ress | \du̇-ˈres, dyu̇- \

Legal Definition of duress 

: 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

Note: 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.

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Comments on duress

What made you want to look up duress? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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