distress

noun
dis·​tress | \ di-ˈstres How to pronounce distress (audio) \

Essential Meaning of distress

1 : unhappiness or pain : suffering that affects the mind or body Citizens voiced their distress over delays in fixing the problem. The patient showed no obvious signs of distress. See More ExamplesHe suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the accident. The new drug can cause abdominal/gastric distress. [=stomach pain] a cry of distress He was clearly in distress [=very upset] upon hearing the news.Hide
2 : a very difficult situation in which you do not have enough money, food, etc. She's chosen to devote her life to helping those in distress. [=in trouble, in need] Donations were given to families in (financial) distress.
3 of a boat, airplane, etc. : a state of danger or desperate need The ship was in distress. [=the ship was possibly going to sink] The Coast Guard responded to the ship's distress signal/call. [=signal or call for help]

Full Definition of distress

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 law
a : seizure and detention of the goods of another as pledge (see pledge entry 1 sense 1) or to obtain satisfaction of a claim by the sale of the goods seized
b : something that is distrained
2a : pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind : trouble gastric distress The patient showed no obvious signs of distress. severe emotional distress voiced their distress over the delays
b : a painful situation : misfortune
3 : a state of danger or desperate need a ship in distress

distress

verb
distressed; distressing; distresses

Definition of distress (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to subject to great strain or difficulties homes distressed by poverty
2 archaic : to force or overcome by inflicting pain
3 : to cause to worry or be troubled : upset don't let the news distress you
4 : to mar (something, such as clothing or wood) deliberately to give an effect of age a distressed table distressed jeans

distress

adjective

Definition of distress (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : offered for sale at a loss distress merchandise
2 : involving distress goods a distress sale

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Other Words from distress

Verb

distressingly \ di-​ˈstre-​siŋ-​lē How to pronounce distress (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for distress

Noun

distress, suffering, misery, agony mean the state of being in great trouble. distress implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress. the hurricane put everyone in great distress suffering implies conscious endurance of pain or distress. the suffering of famine victims misery stresses the unhappiness attending especially sickness, poverty, or loss. the homeless live with misery every day agony suggests pain too intense to be borne. in agony over the death of their child

Examples of distress in a Sentence

Noun Citizens voiced their distress over delays in fixing the problem. The patient showed no obvious signs of distress. He suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the accident. Verb don't let all the bad news distress you
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Such depictions are both overt — exaggerated breasts and barely clothed girls — and subtle, such as story lines in which girls are damsels in distress and secondary to boys. Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2021 Soon use words such as healing and reassurance to describe the impact of early 9/11 humor, making the (classically Freudian) case that jokes offered psychological relief to a nation in distress. Sascha Cohen, The Atlantic, 10 Sep. 2021 Police were called to the singer's Hillsborough home on Monday on a report of a puppy in distress, the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office said in a press release on Thursday. NBC News, 10 Sep. 2021 Leading the revitalization effort, East Baltimore Development Inc., has countered that many of the area’s dwellings were vacant, and the residents who did remain were relieved to move away from a neighborhood in distress. Hallie Miller, baltimoresun.com, 10 Sep. 2021 Residents in the area made numerous 911 calls at around 1:40 a.m. to alert police of a person in distress and possibly in the water, screaming for help. Clifford Ward, chicagotribune.com, 10 Sep. 2021 In January 2018, two weeks after scuffling with Fair Haven, Vermont, police in a bathroom stall at her high school, a student in distress found herself in trouble again. USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2021 Krejcikova, appearing to be in distress over a problem with a muscle in her midsection, called a medical time out after Muguruza had taken a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak. Los Angeles Times, 6 Sep. 2021 Rob, the oldest of two children, was born in distress. Meg Kissinger, jsonline.com, 1 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Within the last 12 months, to what extent did the following issue(s) cause you distress? Genny Beemyn, The Conversation, 5 Aug. 2021 But Brightline trains, many contended, would reduce property values, pose a safety risk from derailments, distress the mental health of students at schools near the tracks and threaten wildlife and wetlands in and near the community. Kevin Spear, orlandosentinel.com, 20 July 2021 His back legs kept giving out, too, which appeared to distress him. Cathy M. Rosenthal, San Antonio Express-News, 27 May 2021 Rebecca Hofmann conveys distress more naturalistically, with a drawing of a person whose limbs are pulled together in a sort of knot. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 4 Dec. 2020 The rescue group said there are concerns that noise from an upcoming military exercise in the area for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will distress the animals. NBC News, 1 Oct. 2020 Many colleges and universities across the nation, distressed by the negative financial, academic and social impact of continued online learning, are scrambling to find ways to safely educate and provide for their students in the fall. Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 30 Apr. 2020 McConnell’s plan would provide billions in loan guarantees to industries distressed by the crisis, such as the airlines, and offer billions in loan guarantees to small businesses. Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 20 Mar. 2020 The changes were often distressing to the old guard. Suzanne Daley, New York Times, 23 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Both of these post-distress firms still look attractive on an after-tax cash flow basis versus their peers. George Schultze, Forbes, 16 Apr. 2021 Going forward, many more firms emerging from the COVID crisis will have large NOLs that can benefit their post-distress shareholders. George Schultze, Forbes, 16 Apr. 2021 Thys didn’t hang any of the flags upside down, but these are clearly distress symbols. Washington Post, 30 Oct. 2020

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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for distress

Noun, Verb, and Adjective

Middle English destresse, from Anglo-French destresce, from Vulgar Latin *districtia, from Latin districtus, past participle of distringere — see distrain

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Time Traveler for distress

Time Traveler

The first known use of distress was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near distress

distraught

distress

distress call

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Statistics for distress

Last Updated

25 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Distress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distress. Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for distress

distress

noun
dis·​tress | \ di-ˈstres How to pronounce distress (audio) \

Kids Definition of distress

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : physical or mental pain or suffering
2 : a state of danger or desperate need The ship was in distress.

distress

verb
distressed; distressing

Kids Definition of distress (Entry 2 of 2)

: to upset or cause to worry The news distressed her.

Other Words from distress

distressingly \ di-​ˈstre-​siŋ-​lē \ adverb

distress

noun
dis·​tress | \ dis-ˈtres How to pronounce distress (audio) \

Medical Definition of distress

: pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind gastric distress respiratory distress

distress

noun
dis·​tress

Legal Definition of distress

1 : seizure and detention of the goods of another as pledge or to obtain satisfaction of a claim by the sale of the goods seized specifically : seizure by a landlord of a tenant's property to obtain satisfaction of arrearages in rent

Note: Distress is regulated by statute where available. It has been held unconstitutional by some courts.

2 : pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind — see also emotional distress

History and Etymology for distress

Anglo-French destrece, literally, tightness, anguish, deprivation, from Old French, ultimately from Late Latin districtus severe, from past participle of distringere to hinder, punish — see distrain

More from Merriam-Webster on distress

Nglish: Translation of distress for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of distress for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about distress

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