[ stres ]
/ strɛs /
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See synonyms for: stress / stressed / stresses / stressing on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
to experience stress or worry: Don't stress about the turkey; I promise it will be delicious.Dad is always stressing out over his job.
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Origin of stress

First recorded in 1275–1325; (noun) Middle English stresse, aphetic variant of distresse; (verb) derivative of the noun; see origin at distress



accent, stress

Other definitions for stress (2 of 2)


a feminine equivalent of -ster: seamstress; songstress.

Origin of -stress

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does -stress mean?

The form -stress is a suffix that marks a feminine agent noun, which indicates a person who does an action. This suffix is occasionally used in a variety of informal terms, but it has lost popularity in recent years. Increasingly, -stress is seen as an unnecessarily gendered suffix for forming agent nouns because it identifies the “doer” as female.

The suffix -stress is a combination of two similar suffixes: Old English -estre, which marked female agent nouns, and Old French -esse (see -ess), a common feminine ending for nouns.

What are variants of -stress?

When agent nouns ending in -stress are used to refer to a masculine- or neutral-gendered element, -stress becomes -ster, as in seamster (a male seamstress).

Want to know more? Read our Words That Use -ster article.

Examples of -stress

A term that features the suffix -stress is songstress, “a female singer, especially one who specializes in popular songs.”

The song- part of the word here refers to the tunes that are sung. The suffix -stress denotes a female agent, or “doer,” and songstress therefore literally means “female singer of songs.”

What are some words that use the suffix -stress?

What are some other forms that -stress may be commonly confused with?

Not every word that ends with the letters -stress is necessarily using the suffix -stress to denote a female agent noun. Some words that end with -stress, such as mistress, are still reserved (though not without due criticism) for women. However, other words, such as distress and its derivative stress, share the letters -stress purely as a coincidence.

Break it down!

A seamster is a person whose occupation is sewing. Given what you know about the meaning of -stress, what is a seamstress?

How to use stress in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for stress (1 of 2)

/ (strɛs) /


Derived forms of stress

stressful, adjectivestressfully, adverbstressfulness, noun

Word Origin for stress

C14: stresse, shortened from distress

British Dictionary definitions for stress (2 of 2)


suffix forming nouns
indicating a woman who performs or is engaged in a certain activitysongstress; seamstress Compare -ster (def. 1)

Word Origin for -stress

from -st (e) r + -ess
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

Scientific definitions for stress

[ strĕs ]

The force per unit area applied to an object. Objects subject to stress tend to become distorted or deformed. Compare strain. See also axial stress shear stress. See more at Hooke's law.
  1. A physiologic reaction by an organism to an uncomfortable or unfamiliar physical or psychological stimulus. Biological changes result from stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, including a heightened state of alertness, anxiety, increased heart rate, and sweating.
  2. The stimulus or circumstance causing such a reaction.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for stress (1 of 2)


In physics, the internal resistance of an object to an external force that tends to deform it.

Cultural definitions for stress (2 of 2)


A physical factor, such as injury, or mental state, such as anxiety, that disturbs the body's normal state of functioning. Stress may contribute to the development of some illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.

notes for stress

The term stress also refers to the physical and mental state produced in the body when it is influenced by such factors: “The stress of the new job was too much for Tim, so he requested reassignment to his old position in the company.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.