Meaning of DISTRESS in English


I. də̇ˈstres noun

( -es )

Etymology: Middle English destresse, from Old French destresse, destresce, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin districtia, from Latin districtus (past participle of distringere to hinder, molest) + -ia -y — more at distrain


a. : the act or remedy of distraining : the seizure and detention of the goods of another by way of pledge for the reparation of an injury or the performance of a duty or in order to obtain satisfaction of a claim (as for rent, taxes, or an injury) by the sale of the goods seized

b. : the thing taken by distraining : something that is seized to procure satisfaction

2. obsolete : the act or the condition of straining or forcing : stress , constraint , compulsion


a. : an oppressed or distressed state : pain , suffering : anguish of body or mind : trouble , need

each side sees its own security and prosperity in the insecurity, destitution, and distress of the other — Isaac Deutscher

in great distress for money — Encyc. Americana

poetry, that immortal medium fallen into distress , if not disrepute or desuetude — Harvey Breit

these days when the world is in tension and distress because of the conflict of two ideologies — R.D.Jacobs

b. : a painful situation : misfortune , calamity : great trouble : adversity , affliction

suffered most severely in the interwar years from unemployment and economic distress — L.D.Stamp

c. : a cause of sorrow

her son's dissolute ways were a distress to her

their greatest distress was poverty


a. : a state of danger or necessity

a ship in distress

respiratory distress

also : evidence of such a state

b. : an indication of weakness or incipient failure in a structure subjected to stress


suffering , misery , agony , dolor , passion : these nouns designate in common the condition of one in great trouble or in mental or physical pain. distress commonly implies conditions or circumstances that cause physical or mental stress or strain, suggesting strongly the need of assistance; in application to a mental state, it implies the strain of fear, anxiety, shame, or the like

the distress of the underprivileged — Oscar Handlin

the personal distress of those who cannot emotionally readjust themselves to new views — M.R.Cohen

the spring and summer of 1842 brought severe distress to many in County Mayo in the form of famine — J.T.Ellis

suffering applies especially to human beings, implying an awareness of distress and often a conscious endurance

the losses and hardships and sufferings entailed by war — Bertrand Russell

the suffering of unhappy adolescence

misery stresses the unhappy or wretched conditions attending distress or suffering as well as the distress itself, often suggesting an unalleviated or chronic suffering

the stench and misery of poverty — Harrison Smith

anguish that wept aloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that was dumb — Oscar Wilde

agony suggests intense, usually unbearable, pain or suffering

fell with a scream of mortal agony — F.V.W.Mason

she suffered agonies of mortification — Margaret Deland

the agonies of an impaled beetle — Rudyard Kipling

dolor , a literary word, applies chiefly to mental suffering involving sorrow, somber depression, or anxiety, often intense

heaviness is upon them, and dolor thickens the air they walk through — Waldo Frank

accept national and local calamities, such as invasions, droughts, famines … with a quiet dolor which suggests passivity and stoicism — New Republic

the “happy child” she was though underlaid by dolor — Louise Nicholl

passion is now rare in this sense except in application to the suffering of Christ before and during the crucifixion

the passion of Our Lord

II. transitive verb

( distressed also archaic distrest ; distressed also archaic distrest ; distressing ; distresses )

Etymology: Middle English destressen, from Middle French destresser, destrescer, from destresse, destresce


a. : to subject to great strain or difficulties ; especially : to bring to dire and painful especially economic straits

distressed companies would get technical advice, loans, government contracts and fast tax amortizations to help them diversify their products and find new markets — Time

public housing for distressed families of veterans, servicemen, government employees — Current Biography

relief shipments to Europe and other distressed war areas — Harry Truman

b. : to afflict or exhaust especially with strain or discomfort

c. : to cause pain or suffering to : oppress with calamity : make miserable : pain , harass

wild speculation and unwholesome overexpansion … caused several bank failures and a distressing public debt — American Guide Series: North Carolina

the sight of blood, in fact, always distressed him — Charles Lee

also : to cause to worry or be troubled : upset , disturb

the bitter remarks distressed the sensitive boy considerably

it distresses me somewhat to hiss at trolley-car conductors who … were my personal heroes some decades back — Horace Sutton

stories not involving military security occasionally distressed Captain Lee to the point where he felt it necessary to call in an offending correspondent and explain to him that some stories were better left unprinted — E.L.Jones

: trouble , bother

the distressing accumulation of down and dust — Emily Holt


a. : to force or compel by or as if by inflicting pain or suffering

men who can neither be distressed nor won into a sacrifice of duty — Alexander Hamilton

b. obsolete : to rout in battle : overwhelm

3. archaic : to levy a distress upon : distrain

III. adjective

Etymology: distress (I)

1. of merchandise : sold or offered for sale at a sacrifice : disposed of cheaply because of financial necessity

the weaker the market becomes, the more distress merchandise comes on the market — E.B.Weiss

the resulting so-called distress cargoes of spot gasoline, offered through brokers, often have a strong depressing effect on prices — Harold Fleming

2. : involving distress goods

a distress sale

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.