from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Importance, significance, or emphasis placed on something. See Synonyms at emphasis.
  • n. Linguistics The relative force with which a sound or syllable is spoken.
  • n. Linguistics The emphasis placed on the sound or syllable spoken most forcefully in a word or phrase.
  • n. The relative force of sound or emphasis given a syllable or word in accordance with a metrical pattern.
  • n. A syllable having strong relative emphasis in a metrical pattern.
  • n. Accent or a mark representing such emphasis or force.
  • n. Physics An applied force or system of forces that tends to strain or deform a body.
  • n. Physics The internal resistance of a body to such an applied force or system of forces.
  • n. A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression.
  • n. A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition.
  • n. A state of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain: "He presided over the economy during the period of its greatest stress and danger” ( Robert J. Samuelson).
  • transitive v. To place emphasis on: stressed basic fire safety.
  • transitive v. To give prominence to (a syllable or word) in pronouncing or in accordance with a metrical pattern.
  • transitive v. To subject to physical or mental pressure, tension, or strain.
  • transitive v. To subject to mechanical pressure or force.
  • transitive v. To construct so as to withstand a specified stress.
  • stress out Informal To subject to or undergo extreme stress, as from working too much.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The internal distribution of force per unit area (pressure) within a body reacting to applied forces which causes strain or deformation and is typically symbolised by σ
  • n. externally applied to a body which cause internal stress within the body.
  • n. Emotional pressure suffered by a human being or other animal.
  • n. The emphasis placed on a syllable of a word.
  • n. Emphasis placed on words in speaking.
  • n. Emphasis placed on a particular point in an argument or discussion (whether spoken or written).
  • v. To apply force to (a body or structure) causing strain.
  • v. To apply emotional pressure to (a person or animal).
  • v. To suffer stress; to worry or be agitated.
  • v. To emphasise (a syllable of a word).
  • v. To emphasise (words in speaking).
  • v. To emphasise (a point) in an argument or discussion.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj.
  • n. Distress.
  • n. Pressure, strain; -- used chiefly of immaterial things; except in mechanics; hence, urgency; importance; weight; significance.
  • n. The force, or combination of forces, which produces a strain; force exerted in any direction or manner between contiguous bodies, or parts of bodies, and taking specific names according to its direction, or mode of action, as thrust or pressure, pull or tension, shear or tangential stress.
  • n. Force of utterance expended upon words or syllables. Stress is in English the chief element in accent and is one of the most important in emphasis. See Guide to pronunciation, §§ 31-35.
  • n. Distress; the act of distraining; also, the thing distrained.
  • transitive v. To press; to urge; to distress; to put to difficulties.
  • transitive v. To subject to stress, pressure, or strain.
  • transitive v. To subject to phonetic stress; to accent.
  • transitive v. To place emphasis on; to make emphatic; emphasize.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To straiten; constrain; press; urge; hamper.
  • In mech., to subject to a stress.
  • To lay the stress, emphasis, or accent on; emphasize.
  • n. Constraining, urging, or impelling force; constraining power or influence; pressure; urgency; violence.
  • n. In mech., an elastic force, whether in equilibrium with an external force or not; the force called into play by a strain.
  • n. Stretch; strain; effort.
  • n. Weight; importance; special force or significance; emphasis.
  • n. The relative loudness with which certain syllables or parts of syllables are pronounced; emphasis in utterance; accent; ictus.
  • n. Relatively to another stress, a stress orthogonal to a strain perfectly concurrent with the other stress.
  • n. Relatively to an infinitesimal homogeneous strain, a stress such that, if the strain be so compounded with a rotation as to produce a pure strain, the motions of the particles upon the surface of a sphere relatively to its center represent in magnitude and direction the components of the stress.
  • n. Synonyms Accent, etc. See emphasis.
  • n. Distress; difficulty; extremity; pinch.
  • n. In law: The act of distraining; distress.
  • n. A former mode of taking up indictments for circuit courts.
  • n. In electricity, electromotive force; difference of potential; pressure: as, a stress of 2000 volts.
  • n. A stress in the direction opposite to the usual stress to which a piece in a structure is subjected. In this case the negative stress may be either tension or compression.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. to stress, single out as important
  • n. special emphasis attached to something
  • v. put stress on; utter with an accent
  • n. difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension
  • n. (physics) force that produces strain on a physical body
  • n. (psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense
  • n. the relative prominence of a syllable or musical note (especially with regard to stress or pitch)
  • v. test the limits of


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English stresse, hardship, partly from destresse (from Old French; see distress) and partly from Old French estrece, narrowness, oppression (from Vulgar Latin *strictia, from Latin strictus, past participle of stringere, to draw tight; see strait).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English destresse, from Old French, from Latin stringere ("to draw tight").


  • As anyone knows who has had a treadmill stress test, the whole idea is to ’stress’ the cardiovascular system of the person being tested.

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  • The term "stress spillover," refers to when stress from external sources leaches into a relationship.

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  • Tokyo workers and students try to remain productive in spite of prevalent sutoresu, which, if you say it fast enough, will capture how the word stress comes out in Japanese.viii Residents of Bogotá, Colombia, complain of estrés resulting from ongoing security problems throughout their nation.

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  • It would be tempting to blame early signs of stress on the Romans of antiquity, or to trace the word stress back to its Latin origins and leave it at that.

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  • Prior to 1914 the word stress was an engineering term, as in the force placed on a structure that causes it to break down in some way.

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  • A significant literature exists, particularly in the last fifty or so years, ever since the word stress was appropriated from metallurgy as a medical term, supporting the notion that negative thoughts and emotions are toxic to your health.

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  • I have no idea why they felt the need to use the word stress in regards to a pregnancy-related test.

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  • ‡ 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.


  • I should note parenthetically with respect to this use of the term stress, that the smaller the ratio the more the strain, because load distributed over a wide area makes it less destructive.

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  • Later Hans Selye 1936* elaborated these concepts within his theory of hormone chemistry and coined the term stress response.

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