See more synonyms for stress on
  1. importance attached to a thing: to lay stress upon good manners.
  2. Phonetics. emphasis in the form of prominent relative loudness of a syllable or a word as a result of special effort in utterance.
  3. Prosody. accent or emphasis on syllables in a metrical pattern; beat.
  4. emphasis in melody, rhythm, etc.; beat.
  5. the physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another; strain.
  6. Mechanics.
    1. the action on a body of any system of balanced forces whereby strain or deformation results.
    2. the amount of stress, usually measured in pounds per square inch or in pascals.
    3. a load, force, or system of forces producing a strain.
    4. the internal resistance or reaction of an elastic body to the external forces applied to it.
    5. the ratio of force to area.
    See also strain1(def 23), shear(def 19), torsion(def 3).
  7. Physiology. a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.
  8. physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension: Worry over his job and his wife's health put him under a great stress.
  9. a situation, occurrence, or factor causing this: The stress of being trapped in the elevator gave him a pounding headache.
  10. Archaic. strong or straining exertion.
verb (used with object)
  1. to lay stress on; emphasize.
  2. Phonetics. to pronounce (a syllable or a word) with prominent loudness: Stress the first syllable of “runner.” Stress the second word in “put up with.”Compare accent(def 18).
  3. to subject to stress or strain.
  4. Mechanics. to subject to stress.
verb (used without object)
  1. 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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stresses

Contemporary Examples of stresses

Historical Examples of stresses

  • We give you the job of figuring out the stresses and strains involved.

    Islands of Space

    John W Campbell

  • Or again she would revive all the stresses before our marriage.

    Tono Bungay

    H. G. Wells

  • Then something happens so that the strains and stresses of the crust are released.

    Climatic Changes

    Ellsworth Huntington

  • Or rather, we may say, Nicolai stresses the influence of Kant's dualism of the reasons.

    The Forerunners

    Romain Rolland

  • Let the intervals and stresses be slowly and distinctly given.

British Dictionary definitions for stresses


  1. special emphasis or significance attached to something
  2. mental, emotional, or physical strain or tension
  3. emphasis placed upon a syllable by pronouncing it more loudly than those that surround it
  4. such emphasis as part of a regular rhythmic beat in music or poetry
  5. a syllable so emphasized
  6. physics
    1. force or a system of forces producing deformation or strain
    2. the force acting per unit area
  1. (tr) to give emphasis or prominence to
  2. (tr) to pronounce (a word or syllable) more loudly than those that surround it
  3. (tr) to subject to stress or strain
  4. informal (intr) to become stressed or anxious
Derived Formsstressful, adjectivestressfully, adverbstressfulness, noun

Word Origin for stress

C14: stresse, shortened from distress
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 stresses



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

stresses in Medicine


  1. An applied force or system of forces that tends to strain or deform a body.
  2. The resisting force set up in a body as a result of an externally applied force.
  3. 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.

stresses in Science


  1. 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.

stresses in Culture


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.