a state of extreme necessity or misfortune: After the stock market crash, he found himself in great financial distress.
the state of a ship or airplane requiring immediate assistance, as when on fire in transit.
that which causes pain, suffering, trouble, danger, etc.: His willful disobedience was a distress to his parents.
liability or exposure to pain, suffering, trouble, etc.; danger: a damsel in distress.
the legal seizure and detention of the goods of another as security or satisfaction for debt, etc.; the act of distraining.
the thing seized in distraining.
afflicted with or suffering distress: distress livestock; distress wheat.
caused by or indicative of distress or hardship: distress prices; distress borrowing.
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: Her faithlessness distressed him into ending their marriage.
to dent, scratch, or stain (furniture, lumber, or the like) so as to give an appearance of age: She used an old bicycle chain to distress the surface of the table before applying a deep stain.
- dis·tress·ing·ly, adverb
- pre·dis·tress, noun, verb (used with object)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use distress in a sentence
It’s also easy to anthropomorphize and misinterpret actions as gestures of joy that are actually signs of distress or just indifference.
Covid-19—and its corollaries of uncertainty, isolation, and financial distress— is a mix of high-risk factors for developing a substance abuse disorder, or relapsing.Substance abuse makes Covid-19 even more dangerous | Annalisa Merelli | September 16, 2020 | Quartz
In response, lawmakers called a hearing two months later, during which doctors and other experts testified that children suffered emotional and mental distress during the weeks or months their release was delayed.Still No Answers to Lawmakers’ Questions About Children Stuck in Psychiatric Hospitals | by Duaa Eldeib | September 15, 2020 | ProPublica
Under the radar, a new class of dangerous debt — climate-distressed mortgage loans — might already be threatening the financial system.Climate Change Will Force a New American Migration | by Abrahm Lustgarten, photography by Meridith Kohut | September 15, 2020 | ProPublica
We became officers because we wanted to help people in distress, make a difference in our communities and simply serve and protect.What Can Mayors Do When the Police Stop Doing Their Jobs? | by Alec MacGillis | September 3, 2020 | ProPublica
The girls send a cry for help…the situation of these girls is distressing.Jihadis Release New Year’s Eve Video of Italian Female Hostages | Jamie Dettmer, Barbie Latza Nadeau | January 2, 2015 | THE DAILY BEAST
In one of the most distressing events of the year, nerd entitlement hit 100.10 Things That Made Us Want to Turn Off the Internet Forever in 2014 | The Daily Beast | December 15, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
The health care workers, too, face “distressing” conditions.
The current lack of available Simpsons clips online is distressing.A 200-Hour ‘Simpsons’ Marathon? That’s Unpossible! | Rich Goldstein | July 24, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
Many Orange is the New Black fans found this scene to be particularly distressing.
“This is a distressing predicament for these young people,” thought Mr. Pickwick, as he dressed himself next morning.The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, v. 2(of 2) | Charles Dickens
The fate of the royal family after this defeat was extremely singular and distressing.The Every Day Book of History and Chronology | Joel Munsell
Indeed, the arrival of the American volunteers under these distressing circumstances produced a fresh commotion in Yloilo.The Philippine Islands | John Foreman
It was more than distressing, it was afflicting—the letters tore an established reputation into a thousand pieces.The Wave | Algernon Blackwood
It's seeing people and objects in their weird entirety, in their true and complete shapes, that is so distressing.Three More John Silence Stories | Algernon Blackwood
British Dictionary definitions for distress
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
the seizure and holding of property as security for payment of or in satisfaction of a debt, claim, etc; distraint
the property thus seized
US (as modifier): distress merchandise
- distressful, adjective
- distressfully, adverb
- distressfulness, noun
- distressing, adjective, noun
- distressingly, adverb
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