\ˈstres \

Definition of stress 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : constraining force or influence: such as

a : a force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part especially : the intensity of this mutual force commonly expressed in pounds per square inch

b : the deformation caused in a body by such a force

c : a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation

d : a state resulting from a stress especially : one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium job-related stress

e : strain, pressure the environment is under stress to the point of collapse— Joseph Shoben

2 : emphasis, weight lay stress on a point

3 archaic : intense effort or exertion

4 : intensity of utterance given to a speech sound, syllable, or word producing relative loudness

5a : relative force or prominence of sound in verse

b : a syllable having relative force or prominence


stressed; stressing; stresses

Definition of stress (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to subject to physical or psychological stress stressing the equipment this traffic is stressing me out

2 : to subject to phonetic stress : accent

3 : to lay stress on : emphasize stressed the importance of teamwork

intransitive verb

: to feel stress stressing about the big exam often used with out

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Examples of stress in a Sentence


She uses meditation as a way of reducing stress. Hormones are released into the body in response to emotional stress. She is dealing with the stresses of working full-time and going to school. He talked about the stresses and strains of owning a business. Carrying a heavy backpack around all day puts a lot of stress on your shoulders and back. To reduce the amount of stress on your back, bend your knees when you lift something heavy. The ship's mast snapped under the stress of high winds. measuring the effects of stresses on the material


The union stressed the need for stricter safety standards. The risks involved in the procedure should be stressed. Some people stress the second syllable of “harassment,” while others stress the first. When she said, “We need lots of money,” she stressed the word “lots.” It's not an important decision and it isn't worth stressing over.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

To reduce the stress on the corners, Apple notched the internal corner of the battery. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "iFixit’s iPhone XS and XS Max teardown: Like the iPhone X with a couple surprises," 21 Sep. 2018 Developers of Eco Park, as the site is now called, say there have been improvements to the enclosures and the 45-acre (18-hectare) site has been closed to the public, reducing the stress on the animals. Luis Andres Henao, Fox News, "Giraffe, rhino deaths raise alarm at former Buenos Aires zoo," 22 Aug. 2018 Harvard researchers found that even a 20-minute walk could clear the mind and reduce stress hormones. Sarah Richards, Woman's Day, "Quiet Your Mind in Anxious Times With These Expert Tricks," 14 Aug. 2018 His opponent Steuart Pittman, a Democrat, says Schuh has allowed too much development in his first term, contributing to more traffic and stress on the county's roads. Elisha Sauers,, "County Executive Schuh touts $4 million boost for filling potholes and paving roads in Anne Arundel," 12 July 2018 The ambush will inject new stress on the U.S. military’s plans to place conventional military advisers from the brigade in closer proximity to Afghan troops than the Pentagon has done in years. Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, "U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan was supporting the Army’s new adviser brigade," 8 July 2018 Miller Utech from Stone Ranch Elementary earned second place with a stress on the importance of using water rather than wasting it. Laura Groch,, "North County School News, July 5," 5 July 2018 Persistent fear can elevate stress hormones, which are detrimental to the health of the animals. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, "Night shift: Animals are retreating into the darkness out of fear of humans," 28 June 2018 As Atlanta grows at a rate far above other top American metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, its surging populace is putting stress on its transportation infrastructure and housing market. Alex Soderstrom, ajc, "Atlanta metro population on pace to pass Philadelphia as 8th largest," 23 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Ultimately, the stressed out coach chose to keep contestant Cody Ray on her team. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'The Voice' Fans Are Obsessed With This Comment Kelly Clarkson Made Last Night," 16 Oct. 2018 Since the draft late in June, Borrego and general manager Mitch Kupchak have stressed the need for a secondary veteran ballhandler behind two-time All-Star Kemba Walker. Brendan Marks, charlotteobserver, "Why rookie Miles Bridges could be 'big-time' for Hornets, plus final minicamp notes," 5 July 2018 Additionally, while the idea of turn-taking might bring to mind a picture of orderly, well-mannered animals, Kendrick stresses that this isn’t always the case. Joshua Rapp Learn, Smithsonian, "Some Animals Take Turns While Talking, Just Like Humans. Why?," 20 June 2018 American citizens across the country have spent the past few months stressing endlessly to one another how important the 2018 midterm elections are. Aja Romano, Vox, "The memes of the 2018 midterm elections reflect a feeling of urgency and determination," 6 Nov. 2018 There are plenty of volunteer opportunities to not just get out the vote, but to do so by stressing how important reproductive freedom is to you. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "It’s not too late to protect reproductive freedom, but you have to act now.," 11 Oct. 2018 The report drops language from previous reports that stressed worry that inflation would continue to run below the target. Jim Tankersley,, "Fed plays down trade woes and suggests rosy economic outlook," 13 July 2018 Burman stressed the need for a plan and said the current long-term drought is the worst of its kind in 1,200 years. Joshua Bowling, azcentral, "As the Arizona drought persists, Phoenix's water use continues to drop," 12 July 2018 Sugden has repeatedly stressed that school officials were wrong to contact police after learning of the encounters. Amanda Marrazzo, McHenry County, "Ex-music teacher avoids jail for battery, alcohol offenses after lawyer calls victims 'prima donnas'," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stress.' 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 stress


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1545, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for stress


Middle English stresse stress, distress, short for destresse — more at distress

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Learn More about stress

Statistics for stress

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stress

The first known use of stress was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for stress



English Language Learners Definition of stress

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.

: something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety

: physical force or pressure



English Language Learners Definition of stress (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give special attention to (something)

: to pronounce (a syllable or word) in a louder or more forceful way than other syllables or words

: to feel very worried or anxious about something : to feel stress


\ˈstres \

Kids Definition of stress

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a force that tends to change the shape of an object

2 : something that causes physical or emotional tension : a state of tension resulting from a stress She felt the stress of working two jobs.

3 : special importance given to something The speaker laid stress on a particular point.

4 : relative loudness or force of a part of a spoken word or a beat in music “Finally” has the stress on the first syllable.


stressed; stressing

Kids Definition of stress (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to subject to excessive use or to forces that cause a change in shape Hard use was stressing the equipment.

2 : to cause or experience physical or emotional tension All these changes are stressing me.

3 : to pronounce (part of a word) with relative loudness or force Stress the first syllable.

4 : to give special importance to : emphasize He stressed the need to save energy.


\ˈstres \

Medical Definition of stress 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part especially : the intensity of this mutual force commonly expressed in pounds per square inch

b : the deformation caused in a body by such a force

2a : a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation

b : a state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium

3 : the force exerted between teeth of the upper and lower jaws during mastication

Medical Definition of stress (Entry 2 of 2)

: to subject to stress a patient stressed by surgery

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More from Merriam-Webster on stress

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stress

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stress

Spanish Central: Translation of stress

Nglish: Translation of stress for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stress for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about stress

Comments on stress

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


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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