Definition of distress in English:


Syllabification: dis·tress
Pronunciation: /disˈtres


  • 1Extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain: to his distress he saw that she was trembling
    More example sentences
    • Considerable social stigma is associated with infection, which may cause psychological distress in the sufferer.
    • Caring for people experiencing mental distress is often complex and challenging.
    • They say that the school didn't protect her and that she's suffering emotional distress.
  • 1.1The state of a ship or aircraft when in danger or difficulty and needing help: vessels in distress on or near the coast
    More example sentences
    • Three Kingfisher pilots searching for ships in distress radioed they had spotted life rafts in the stormy Atlantic.
    • Tasks undertaken have included searches, medical evacuations, and providing aid to ships and boats in distress.
    • Aaron continued telling anyone who was listening how the freighter ship Charybdis was in distress.
    danger, peril, difficulty, trouble, jeopardy, risk
  • 1.2Suffering caused by lack of money or the basic necessities of life: the poor were helped in their distress
    More example sentences
    • A National Grid spokesman said today that the company did not wish to cause any distress or financial hardship to Mrs Craven.
    • By one estimate, medical expenses are the primary cause of financial distress for 40 percent of those struggling to hold on to their homes.
    • It also noted that another operational consequence of BWIA's financial distress was the long delay in regaining Category 1 status.
  • 1.3 Medicine A state of physical strain, exhaustion, or, in particular, breathing difficulty: they said the baby was in distress
    More example sentences
    • No significant differences between the various groups were found when the incidence of acute fetal distress was analyzed.
    • Researchers first assumed startles were needed to arouse an infant beginning to experience respiratory distress.
    • Additional and more serious symptoms include eye infections, acute respiratory distress, and pneumonia.
  • 2 Law another term for distraint.
    More example sentences
    • On 22nd July 2003 the father employed bailiffs to levy distress on Ash Waste in respect of £2,857 allegedly owed as rent.
    • W. Toronto changed locks and posted bailiff notice of distress.
    • Payments were not made under the LO and bailiffs were instructed to levy distress but were unsuccessful.


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  • 2Give (furniture, leather, or clothing) simulated marks of age and wear: the manner in which leather jackets are industrially distressed
    More example sentences
    • So, I hereby grant you permission to paint that table, to distress it, to weather it, to paint it pink and stencil flowers around the edge if that pleases you.
    • The surface of the table has become distressed by time. There would be no space beneath such a thing to languish.
    • I use anything that is available to create a texture, make a mark, reflect light, distress the surface, etc.



More example sentences
  • In this stage, the patient uses the distressful affect to change the relevant contingencies.
  • Why should we make someone lead a painful and distressful life?
  • No one's life is free of distressful experiences and trauma.


Middle English: from Old French destresce (noun), destrecier (verb), based on Latin distringere 'stretch apart'.

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