\ 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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Synonyms for stress

Synonyms: Noun

pressure, strain, tension

Synonyms: Verb

bother, fear, fret, fuss, stew, sweat, trouble, worry

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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

Whole food, real food, exercise, moving, taking care of your stress level. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "Detox Diets Aren't Real or Healthy — and Body "Toxins" Don't Exist," 1 Jan. 2019 In today’s world, restless minds are indication enough of the pervasive high stress levels plaguing our everyday well-being. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Why This Holiday Break Is a Perfect Time to Start Foam-Rolling," 28 Dec. 2018 So tracking stress levels could be useful for developing a comprehensive whale conservation strategy. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "Whales are stressed out by climate change, and it shows in their earwax," 16 Nov. 2018 An ongoing assessment found that after 18 months, Boulder Crest participants’ post-traumatic stress levels fell by 56 percent. Jim Rendon, Marie Claire, "When Female Veterans Return Home," 29 Oct. 2018 An assertive approach tempered with realistic goals will help streamline the process and ease your stress levels. The Seattle Times, "Tips for navigating Seattle’s hot rental market," 13 Aug. 2018 Embedded with a real-time monitoring system, the bridge will be able to detect vibrating wire stress and strain with high precision. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Made of Giant Concrete Blocks, the World's Longest 3D-Printed Bridge Was Built in 18 Days," 28 Jan. 2019 Holding hands has been proven to actually reduce stress and help the brain respond to threats. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Why Do Couples Hold Hands?," 4 Jan. 2019 There is a little over one week left until Christmas, and naturally stress and anxiety are lingering in the chilly air. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "This Video of Shalom Harlow Dancing for Donatella Versace Is Everything," 17 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Jassy noted any law-enforcement agency that violates AWS' terms of service or is found guilty of a constitutional rights violation would have to curtail using the product, but stressed the regulatory imperative is mainly on governments. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Can Anyone Stop Our Slide into Face-Scanning Dystopia?," 9 Nov. 2018 When Pelco, a unit of Schneider Electric SE, finally released its GFC Professional 4K camera in November, the company stressed that the model doesn’t comply with the National Defense Authorization Act. Mark Bergen, The Seattle Times, "Huawei is blocked in U.S., but its chips power security cameras everywhere," 28 Jan. 2019 Naveed Hussain, vice president of Boeing Research & Technology at Boeing, stressed how the wings address environmental concerns. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Boeing's "Transonic" Wings Will Carry Airliners to Nearly the Speed of Sound at Higher Altitudes," 9 Jan. 2019 Don't stress: There will still be craft cocktails, naturally, and at Hotel Peter and Paul, the Elysian Bar is brought to you by local wine bar Bacchanal, which hosts the best backyard party in the Bywater. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Next Great Food Scene, Beach Town, and More: The 2019 Trends We're Calling Now," 18 Dec. 2018 For travelers, don't stress about a language barrier and currency exchange rates. Kara Ladd, Harper's BAZAAR, "Just Back From...Nosara, Costa Rica," 10 July 2018 Patients are not covered by insurance for all costs, and sometimes doctors and insurers disagree about the best approach for treatment, adding to stress for families. Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, The Seattle Times, "House Dems announce sweeping investigation of drug pricing," 14 Jan. 2019 The novel wants to stress the centrality of Igbo faith in the lives of its characters, yet the story itself seems to show the gods’ irrelevance to the machinery of fate. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: The Sweat and Cries of Humankind," 11 Jan. 2019 As mentioned, tension headaches happen when the muscles of the neck and scalp tense up, and this can be a physical response that your body has to stress and anxiety, MedlinePlus explains. Amy Marturana, SELF, "What Your Headaches Can Tell You About Your Health," 29 Dec. 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

21 Feb 2019

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
US, informal : 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

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