affected with or suffering from distress.
(of merchandise or property for sale) damaged, out-of-date, or used.
(of real estate) foreclosed and offered for sale.
(of furniture) purposely blemished or marred so as to give an antique appearance.
(of fabric) made or processed to appear faded or wrinkled, as if from long, steady use: Our best-selling jeans are the ones in distressed denim.

Origin of distressed

First recorded in 1580–90; distress + -ed2
Related formsdis·tress·ed·ly [dih-stres-id-lee, -strest-lee] /dɪˈstrɛs ɪd li, -ˈstrɛst li/, adverbdis·tress·ed·ness, nounqua·si-dis·tressed, adjectiveun·dis·tressed, adjective




great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble.
a state of extreme necessity or misfortune.
the state of a ship or airplane requiring immediate assistance, as when on fire in transit.
that which causes pain, suffering, trouble, danger, etc.
liability or exposure to pain, suffering, trouble, etc.; danger: a damsel in distress.
  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.
to dent, scratch, or stain (furniture, lumber, or the like) so as to give an appearance of age.


afflicted with or suffering distress: distress livestock; distress wheat.
caused by or indicative of distress or hardship: distress prices; distress borrowing.

verb (used with object)

to afflict with great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; trouble; worry; bother.
to subject to pressure, stress, or strain; embarrass or exhaust by strain: to be distressed by excessive work.
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 for distress

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

Antonyms for distress

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for distressed

Contemporary Examples of distressed

Historical Examples of distressed

  • George was glad to have some one to talk to, but he was distressed by this narration of his landlady.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • I was vexed and puzzled, and distressed, too, after sending John away as I had done.

  • When he at last reappeared he was white as wax, distressed, anxious, but still resolute.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • She was so distressed to find that she no longer had strength to resist her pride.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • Her face was so distressed that Linda's nimble brain flew to a conclusion.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

British Dictionary definitions for distressed



much troubled; upset; afflicted
in financial straits; poor
(of furniture, fabric, etc) having signs of ageing artificially applied
economics another word for depressed (def. 4)


verb (tr)

to cause mental pain to; upset badly
(usually passive) to subject to financial or other trouble
to damage (esp furniture), as by scratching or denting it, in order to make it appear older than it is
law a less common word for distrain
archaic to compel


mental pain; anguish
the act of distressing or the state of being distressed
physical or financial trouble
in distress (of a ship, aircraft, etc) in dire need of help
  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 for distress

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 distressed

past participle adjective from distress. In reference to furniture, by 1940.



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.



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for distressed




Mental or physical suffering or anguish.
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.