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.

Origin of stress

1275–1325; (noun) Middle English stresse, aphetic variant of distresse distress; (v.) derivative of the noun
Related formsstress·less, adjectivestress·less·ness, nounan·ti·stress, adjectivede-stress, verb (used with object)non·stress, nouno·ver·stressed, adjectivere·stress, verbun·der·stress, nounun·der·stress, verb (used with object)well-stressed, adjective
Can be confusedaccent stress


a feminine equivalent of -ster: seamstress; songstress.

Origin of -stress Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stress

Contemporary Examples of stress

Historical Examples of stress

  • The girl in the chair was shaking soundlessly under the stress of her emotions.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • The girl's answer was uttered with nervous eagerness which revealed her own stress of fear.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • We were right, it seems, in putting some stress on that "perjured" when we first met it.

  • All trace of stress and strain had left it, replaced by an enigmatic calm.

  • But now, when the stress came, all this philanthropy fell away.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

British Dictionary definitions for stress



special emphasis or significance attached to something
mental, emotional, or physical strain or tension
emphasis placed upon a syllable by pronouncing it more loudly than those that surround it
such emphasis as part of a regular rhythmic beat in music or poetry
a syllable so emphasized
  1. force or a system of forces producing deformation or strain
  2. the force acting per unit area


(tr) to give emphasis or prominence to
(tr) to pronounce (a word or syllable) more loudly than those that surround it
(tr) to subject to stress or strain
informal (intr) to become stressed or anxious
Derived Formsstressful, adjectivestressfully, adverbstressfulness, noun

Word Origin for stress

C14: stresse, shortened from distress


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

Word Origin and History for stress

c.1300, "hardship, adversity, force, pressure," in part a shortening of Middle French destresse (see distress), in part from Old French estrece "narrowness, oppression," from Vulgar Latin *strictia, from Latin strictus "compressed," past participle of stringere "draw tight" (see strain (v.)). The purely psychological sense is attested from 1942.


c.1300, "to subject (someone) to force or compulsion," from the source of stress (n.). The figurative meaning "put emphasis on" is first recorded 1896, from notion of laying pressure on something by relying on it. Related: Stressed; stressing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for stress




An applied force or system of forces that tends to strain or deform a body.
The resisting force set up in a body as a result of an externally applied force.
A physical or psychological stimulus that can produce mental tension or physiological reactions that may lead to illness.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for stress



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.

Culture definitions for stress


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


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.


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.