1. Importance, significance, or emphasis placed on something. See Synonyms at emphasis.
a. The relative force with which a sound or syllable is spoken.
b. The emphasis placed on the sound or syllable spoken most forcefully in a word or phrase.
a. The relative force of sound or emphasis given a syllable or word in accordance with a metrical pattern.
b. A syllable having strong relative emphasis in a metrical pattern.
4. An accent or mark representing such emphasis or force.
a. The internal distribution of force per unit area within a body subject to an applied force or system of forces.
b. The internal resistance of a body to such an applied force or system of forces.
a. A condition of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain: "He presided over the economy during the period of its greatest stress and danger" (Robert J. Samuelson).
b. A condition of physiological or psychological disturbance to the normal functioning or well-being of an organism, occurring as a response to any of various environmental or psychosocial stimuli. Signs and symptoms of stress in humans include increased blood pressure, insomnia, and irritability.
c. A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition: couldn't stand the stresses of the job and quit.
v. stressed, stress·ing, stress·es
1. To place emphasis on: stressed basic fire safety in her talk.
2. To give prominence of sound to (a syllable or word) in pronouncing or in accordance with a metrical pattern.
3. Informal To subject to physiological or mental stress or strain. Often used with out: The pressure of the deadline is really stressing me out.
4. To subject to mechanical pressure or force.
To undergo physiological or mental stress, as from working too much. Often used with out.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.