stress

The word stress is about pressure, whether it's pressure on a syllable of a word (TRAIN-er versus train-EE), an object (the bridge is designed to handle the stress of the cars), or a person (I am under a lot of stress).

It says something about our culture, how much we love to use the word stress and keep redefining it to mean new things. The word first appeared in about 1300, when it meant hardship or a force to which someone is subjected. In the 1890s, we stretched the meaning to include "emphasizing something" and, in the middle of the 20th century, started to associate it with psychological pressure.

Definitions of stress
  1. noun
    special emphasis attached to something
    “the stress was more on accuracy than on speed”
    synonyms: focus
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    type of:
    accent, emphasis
    special importance or significance
  2. noun
    the relative prominence of a syllable or musical note (especially with regard to stress or pitch)
    “he put the stress on the wrong syllable”
    synonyms: accent, emphasis
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    types:
    show 4 types...
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    accentuation
    the use or application of an accent; the relative prominence of syllables in a phrase or utterance
    pitch accent, tonic accent
    emphasis that results from pitch rather than loudness
    word accent, word stress
    the distribution of stresses within a polysyllabic word
    sentence stress
    the distribution of stresses within a sentence
    type of:
    inflection, prosody
    the patterns of stress and intonation in a language
  3. noun
    (physics) force that produces strain on a physical body
    “the intensity of stress is expressed in units of force divided by units of area”
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    types:
    tension
    (physics) a stress that produces an elongation of an elastic physical body
    breaking point
    the degree of tension or stress at which something breaks
    type of:
    force
    (physics) the influence that produces a change in a physical quantity
  4. noun
    (psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense
    stress is a vasoconstrictor”
    synonyms: tenseness, tension
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    types:
    yips
    nervous tension that causes an athlete to fail (especially causes golfers to miss short putts)
    breaking point
    (psychology) stress at which a person breaks down or a situation becomes crucial
    type of:
    mental strain, nervous strain, strain
    (psychology) nervousness resulting from mental stress
  5. noun
    difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension
    “"he presided over the economy during the period of the greatest stress and danger"- R.J.Samuelson”
    synonyms: strain
    see moresee less
    type of:
    difficulty
    a condition or state of affairs almost beyond one's ability to deal with and requiring great effort to bear or overcome
  6. verb
    to stress, single out as important
    synonyms: accent, accentuate, emphasise, emphasize, punctuate
    see moresee less
    types:
    show 13 types...
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    background, downplay, play down
    understate the importance or quality of
    bring out, set off
    direct attention to, as if by means of contrast
    re-emphasise, re-emphasize
    emphasize anew
    bear down
    pay special attention to
    topicalize
    emphasize by putting heavy stress on or by moving to the front of the sentence
    point up
    emphasize, especially by identification
    drive home, press home, ram home
    make clear by special emphasis and try to convince somebody of something
    emphasise, emphasize, underline, underscore
    give extra weight to (a communication)
    pick up
    lift out or reflect from a background
    wave off
    dismiss as insignificant
    foreground, highlight, play up, spotlight
    move into the foreground to make more visible or prominent
    raise
    bring (a surface or a design) into relief and cause to project
    soft-pedal
    play down or obscure
    type of:
    evince, express, show
    give expression to
  7. verb
    put stress on; utter with an accent
    synonyms: accent, accentuate
    see moresee less
    type of:
    articulate, enounce, enunciate, pronounce, say, sound out
    speak, pronounce, or utter in a certain way
  8. verb
    test the limits of
    synonyms: strain, try
    see moresee less
    types:
    rack
    stretch to the limits
    type of:
    afflict
    cause great unhappiness for; distress
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