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

To be able to create an identity under duress is the defining feature of an African aesthetic, even an African-American aesthetic. Dionne Searcey, New York Times, "Kehinde Wiley (and His Infinity Pool) Are Ready to Spoil Artists," 4 June 2019 The imbalance is a legacy of Renault’s investment in Nissan when the Japanese company was under financial duress. Nick Kostov, WSJ, "Nissan Enlisted Japanese Government to Fend Off Renault Merger," 15 Feb. 2019 He is recalled to service, under duress, by his old boss George White (Alistair Petrie), who shows Max a picture of his son Harry (Joe Dempsie), from an earlier relationship, looking very dead. Robert Lloyd, latimes.com, "A ‘Deep State’ where even the moles have moles," 15 June 2018 Nelson Ebo, the Angolan tenor playing Stan, sang despite illness, and the duress of his character was frighteningly audible. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "Classic Operas, New Vital Signs," 7 May 2018 State’s Allerik Freeman was trying to inbound the ball at half court, under duress from Eagles all-ACC guard Jerome Robinson. Julian Benbow, BostonGlobe.com, "BC upsets North Carolina State to advance in ACC," 7 Mar. 2018 More of that would match the ID of a Philly D that can dominate in the trenches and fit the blueprint for beating Brady (see the duress from the two Super Bowl losses to the Giants). Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Bell Tolls: Eagles, Nick Foles are perfect for each other in Super Bowl LII," 3 Feb. 2018 The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Crown Prince Mohammed had approved interrogating or even forcing Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia under duress. David D. Kirkpatrick, The Seattle Times, "Interrogation gone wrong, rogue killers: What happened to Saudi journalist?," 16 Oct. 2018 The Central District Court has ruled that confessions obtained under duress from suspects in the Duma arson attack that claimed the lives of three members of the Dawabshe family in 2015 are inadmissible. Shlomi Diaz, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Israeli Court strikes down key evidence in Duma arson case," 20 June 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

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durfee grass


Statistics for duress

Last Updated

8 Jun 2019

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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

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with duress

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for duress

Spanish Central: Translation of duress

Nglish: Translation of duress for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of duress for Arabic Speakers

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).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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