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.


  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

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.


  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.

  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.

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.

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