\ ˈstres How to pronounce stress (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for stress

Synonyms: Noun

pressure, strain, tension

Synonyms: Verb

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But reaching for the top requires a healthy competitive drive, and new research shows that many girls have trouble managing the stress and emotions that go along with competition. Jennifer Breheny Wallace, WSJ, "Teaching Girls to Be Great Competitors," 12 Apr. 2019 Helicopter parenting, along with high expectations and a societal repugnance to the possibility of failure, contributes to what American high schools have become: petri dishes of high stress and exhaustion. Zach Schermele, Teen Vogue, "Helicopter Parenting Is Usually More Subtle Than Paying for Kids to Get Into School," 22 Mar. 2019 The rumored benefits include boosting the skin's natural defenses against free radicals and UV radiation, as well as warding off visible signs of stress and pollution. Allure, "Melatonin Is Trending in Skin Care Lately, But Can It Really Benefit Your Skin?," 20 Mar. 2019 This guy has incredible stories and was on the receiving end of so much stress and grief and pain for so long. Albert Williams, Chicago Reader, "The 1980s AIDS epidemic in Chicago revisited in Rebecca Makkai’s new novel, The Great Believers," 14 June 2018 But open internet advocates in the U.S. stress that the directive could stifle traffic to news organizations and censor people’s posts online. Raf Casert, The Seattle Times, "EU parliament backs copyright bill targeting US tech giants," 27 Mar. 2019 Research has even found that loud music can drive unhealthy food choices, and the chronic stress reaction from constant noise has been linked to diabetes, respiratory disorders, and cancer. Meghan Rabbitt, Woman's Day, "How To Recapture Peace and Quiet In a Noisy World," 27 Mar. 2019 And given that cowboy boots slip on and off at the drop of hat, going through TSA supermodel style came with zero stress. Vogue, "Kate Moss’s New Airport Shoes Are Unexpected—And Undeniably Cool, Too," 20 Mar. 2019 This will help protect your knee and hip from undue stress. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "A Total-Body HIIT Workout You Can Do in Under 15 Minutes From Celebrity Trainer Jeanette Jenkins," 14 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Although Target will be closed, there's no need to stress. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "Is Target Open on Easter? Here Are the Retailer's Holiday Hours," 18 Mar. 2019 The source also stressed to, however, that Meghan acts as her own stylist and deserves full responsibility for her international trendsetter status as well as for her move to use fashion to promote issues that matter to her. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle Turns to Kate Middleton for Style Advice," 8 Mar. 2019 As a responsible arbiter of information, Consumer Reports also stresses that these kinds of assists are really there for convenience and that operating them introduces new safety risks. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Consumer Reports agrees with Ars: GM Super Cruise beats Tesla Autopilot," 4 Oct. 2018 Marta Camkiran, senior esthetician at New York City's Haven Spa, also stresses shaving in the direction of hair growth to avoid irritating the follicles. Marci Robin, Good Housekeeping, "How to Prevent and Get Rid of Annoying (and Painful!) Razor Bumps," 17 July 2018 The countries on the eastern flank also stressed that, despite the divisions, the achievements of the summit in Brussels made them safer. Washington Post, "Trump’s tough NATO talk plays well on eastern flank," 12 July 2018 Also, the company stressed that the recall is purely precautionary and covers only the Cherry Limeade manufactured at one plant. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Some consumers said the sparkling water tasted funny. The company took it to heart.," 26 June 2018 Pawelczyk also stressed the event is truly a 24-hour-a-day space for recording and rehearsing. Dave Brooks, Billboard, "Webster Hall's Richard Pawelczyk to Open The Arc in Long Island City, Queens," 25 June 2018 The hotel also stresses community, a fact best exemplified by its pool area, where guests and locals alike sunbathe, use free WiFi ,and sip on Customs Coffee, which sources beans from a small-batch local roaster. Jenna Gottlieb, Vogue, "The Hottest Hotel Pools to Cool Down In This Summer," 21 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about stress

Statistics for stress

Last Updated

18 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stress

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce stress (audio) \

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 How to pronounce stress (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


likely to have or produce good results

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!