du·​ress | \ du̇-ˈres How to pronounce duress (audio) also dyu̇- \

Definition of duress

1 law : forcible restraint or restriction while the German army was still held in duress by the Versailles treaty— S. L. A. Marshall
2 law : 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 Good teams respond under this type of duress and build. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, "Alabama hasn’t been this exposed as a flawed team in years," 25 Oct. 2019 The only time Strasburg was under any real duress after the first inning came when Yuli Gurriel doubled with one out in the sixth before the Nationals intentionally walked Yordan Álvarez. Kristie Rieken, Anchorage Daily News, "Nationals demolish Astros in Houston to take commanding 2-0 World Series lead," 24 Oct. 2019 His left leg was under duress after the insertion of ECMO tubes. BostonGlobe.com, "is back in the NHL, and he is grateful.," 20 Oct. 2019 Fair enough: Joe Gillis, the young writer whom Norma seduces and destroys, refers often to his benefactor’s deranged mind and the mechanics of the musical really don’t work unless Norma is under some major mental duress. Chris Jones, chicagotribune.com, "Porchlight’s ‘Sunset Boulevard’ has a true star to play Norma Desmond in this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical," 17 Oct. 2019 Without this, new parents, primarily women, often bear the overwhelming stress of caring for a baby under potential economic duress. SELF, "Actually, Maternity Leave Is Not a Vacation," 20 Aug. 2019 All feature people under one kind of duress or another. Manuel Mendoza, Dallas News, "Dallas theater festival deals with mental illness and other issues facing us in these anxious times," 18 July 2019 The quarterback is always going to be under duress. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions all but out of the NFC North playoff race. And it's Matt Patricia's fault," 3 Nov. 2019 They are oriented toward the past and face the present only under duress, and then with extreme reluctance. Larry Mcmurtry, Harper's magazine, "American Cowboys," 28 Oct. 2019

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

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Time Traveler for duress

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

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Last Updated

7 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Duress.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/duress?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=d&file=duress01. Accessed 7 December 2019.

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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


How to pronounce duress (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of duress

formal : force or threats meant to make someone do something


du·​ress | \ du̇-ˈres, dyu̇- How to pronounce duress (audio) \

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.

History and Etymology for duress

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on duress

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for duress

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with duress

Spanish Central: Translation of duress

Nglish: Translation of duress for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of duress for Arabic Speakers

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