English edit

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Etymology edit

The verb is from Middle English distressen, from Old French destrecier (to restrain, constrain, put in straits, afflict, distress); compare French détresse. Ultimately from Medieval Latin as if *districtiō, an assumed frequentative form of Latin distringō (to pull asunder, stretch out), from dis- (apart) + stringō (to draw tight, strain).

The noun is from Middle English distresse, from Old French destrece, ultimately also from Latin distringō.

Pronunciation edit

  • IPA(key): /dɪˈstɹɛs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛs

Noun edit

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distress (countable and uncountable, plural distresses)

  1. Physical or emotional discomfort, suffering, or alarm, particularly of a more acute nature.
    • 1833, John Trusler, chapter 8, in The Works of William Hogarth: In a Series of Engravings[1], archived from the original on 4 November 2011:
      To heighten his distress, he is approached by his wife, and bitterly upbraided for his perfidy in concealing from her his former connexions (with that unhappy girl who is here present with her child, the innocent offspring of her amours, fainting at the sight of his misfortunes, being unable to relieve him farther), and plunging her into those difficulties she never shall be able to surmount.
    • 1967, Barbara Sleigh, Jessamy, Sevenoaks, Kent: Bloomsbury, published 1993, →ISBN, page 122:
      At any other time Jessamy would have laughed at the expressions that chased each other over his freckled face: crossness left over from his struggle with the baby; incredulity; distress; and finally delight.
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:distress.
  2. A cause of such discomfort.
  3. Serious danger.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, chapter 13, in Robinson Crusoe[2], archived from the original on 15 April 2012:
      I immediately considered that this must be some ship in distress, and that they had some comrade, or some other ship in company, and fired these gun for signals of distress, and to obtain help.
    • 1759, Voltaire, chapter 42, in Candide[3], archived from the original on 17 March 2011:
      At length they perceived a little cottage; two persons in the decline of life dwelt in this desert, who were always ready to give every assistance in their power to their fellow-creatures in distress.
    • For more quotations using this term, see Citations:distress.
  4. (medicine, psychology) An aversive state of stress to which a person cannot fully adapt.
    Antonym: eustress
  5. (law) A seizing of property without legal process to force payment of a debt.
  6. (law) The thing taken by distraining; that which is seized to procure satisfaction.

Derived terms edit

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Translations edit

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Verb edit

distress (third-person singular simple present distresses, present participle distressing, simple past and past participle distressed)

  1. To cause strain or anxiety to someone.
    Synonyms: anguish, harrow, trouble, vex, torment, tantalize, tantalise, martyr
    • 1827, Stendhal, chapter 31, in Armance[4], archived from the original on 26 September 2011:
      She respects me, no doubt, but has no longer any passionate feeling for me, and my death will distress her without plunging her in despair.
  2. (law) To retain someone’s property against the payment of a debt; to distrain.
    Synonym: distrain
    • 1894, James Kent with William Hardcastle Browne, Commentaries on American Law, page 645:
      This power of distress, as anciently used, became as oppressive as the feudal forfeiture. It was as hard for the tenant to be stripped in an instant of all his goods, for arrears of rent, as to be turned out of the possession of his farm.
  3. To treat a new object to give it an appearance of age.
    Synonyms: age, antique, patinate
    a pair of distressed jeans
    She distressed the new media cabinet so that it fit with the other furniture in the room.
    • 1980, Bill Oddie, Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book, page 58:
      If you don't want to be considered a dude you should distress your binoculars in the way that antique dealers distress new paintings to make them look old.

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