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distress

[dih-stres]
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noun
  1. great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble.
  2. a state of extreme necessity or misfortune.
  3. the state of a ship or airplane requiring immediate assistance, as when on fire in transit.
  4. that which causes pain, suffering, trouble, danger, etc.
  5. liability or exposure to pain, suffering, trouble, etc.; danger: a damsel in distress.
  6. Law.
    1. the legal seizure and detention of the goods of another as security or satisfaction for debt, etc.; the act of distraining.
    2. the thing seized in distraining.
  7. to dent, scratch, or stain (furniture, lumber, or the like) so as to give an appearance of age.
adjective
  1. afflicted with or suffering distress: distress livestock; distress wheat.
  2. caused by or indicative of distress or hardship: distress prices; distress borrowing.
verb (used with object)
  1. to afflict with great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; trouble; worry; bother.
  2. to subject to pressure, stress, or strain; embarrass or exhaust by strain: to be distressed by excessive work.
  3. to compel by pain or force of circumstances: His suffering distressed him into committing suicide.

Origin of distress

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English destresse < Anglo-French distresse, destresse, Old French < Vulgar Latin *districtia, equivalent to Latin district(us) (see district) + -ia -y3; (v.) Middle English destressen < Anglo-French destresser (Old French destrecier), derivative of the noun
Related formsdis·tress·ing·ly, adverbpre·dis·tress, noun, verb (used with object)

Synonyms

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1. agony, anguish, adversity, tribulation. See sorrow. 2. need, destitution.

Antonyms

1. comfort.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for distress

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • She put her arms about her neck, and affectionately inquired the cause of her distress.

    Philothea

    Lydia Maria Child

  • Milza endeavoured, in her own artless way, to soothe the distress her words had excited.

    Philothea

    Lydia Maria Child

  • The horses have not had any water for two days, and show signs of distress.

  • The government admitted the distress, but denied that it was increasing.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • I was alone with God, and prayed to him for help in my distress, and for direction.

    Biography of a Slave

    Charles Thompson


British Dictionary definitions for distress

distress

verb (tr)
  1. to cause mental pain to; upset badly
  2. (usually passive) to subject to financial or other trouble
  3. to damage (esp furniture), as by scratching or denting it, in order to make it appear older than it is
  4. law a less common word for distrain
  5. archaic to compel
noun
  1. mental pain; anguish
  2. the act of distressing or the state of being distressed
  3. physical or financial trouble
  4. in distress (of a ship, aircraft, etc) in dire need of help
  5. law
    1. the seizure and holding of property as security for payment of or in satisfaction of a debt, claim, etc; distraint
    2. the property thus seized
    3. US(as modifier)distress merchandise
Derived Formsdistressful, adjectivedistressfully, adverbdistressfulness, noundistressing, adjective, noundistressingly, adverb

Word Origin

C13: from Old French destresse distress, via Vulgar Latin, from Latin districtus divided in mind; see distrain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for distress

n.

late 13c., "circumstance that causes anxiety or hardship," from Old French destresse, from Vulgar Latin *districtia "restraint, affliction, narrowness, distress," from Latin districtus, past participle of distringere "draw apart, hinder," also, in Medieval Latin "compel, coerce," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + stringere "draw tight, press together" (see strain (v.)). Meaning "anguish, suffering; grief" is from c.1300.

v.

late 14c., from Old French destresser, from Vulgar Latin *districtiare (see distress (n.)). Related: Distressed; distressing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

distress in Medicine

distress

(dĭ-strĕs)
n.
  1. Mental or physical suffering or anguish.
  2. Severe strain resulting from exhaustion or trauma.
Related formsdis•tress adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.