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[doo-res, dyoo-, doo r-is, dyoo r-] /dʊˈrɛs, dyʊ-, ˈdʊər ɪs, ˈdyʊər-/
compulsion by threat or force; coercion; constraint.
Law. such constraint or coercion as will render void a contract or other legal act entered or performed under its influence.
forcible restraint, especially imprisonment.
Origin of duress
1275-1325; Middle English duresse < Middle French duresse, -esce, -ece < Latin dūritia hardness, harshness, oppression, equivalent to dūr(us) hard + -itia -ice
1. intimidation, pressure, bullying, browbeating. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for duress
  • Cats often purr while under duress, such as during a visit to the veterinarian or when recovering from injury.
  • There had been no indication that the state's attorney had obtained their statements under duress.
  • He later recanted that statement, saying it was obtained under duress.
  • Now he said he is forced under duress.
  • I'm an adventurous person only under duress.
  • He tended to notice her when she was around, which was not often — she seemed to play tennis only under duress.
  • The pressure and duress he was under was no longer worth it.
  • You signed something under duress, but then went ahead and complied.
  • That will happen, if at all, under some sort of duress and tranquilizers.
  • They told the court their guilty confessions had been extracted under duress.
British Dictionary definitions for duress


/djʊˈrɛs; djʊə-/
compulsion by use of force or threat; constraint; coercion (often in the phrase under duress)
(law) the illegal exercise of coercion
confinement; imprisonment
Word Origin
C14: from Old French duresse, from Latin dūritia hardness, from dūrus hard
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for duress

early 14c., "harsh or severe treatment," from Old French duresse, from Latin duritia "hardness," from durus "hard" (see endure). The Old French suffix -esse is from Latin -itia, added to adjectives to form nouns of quality (cf. riches, largesse). Sense of "coercion, compulsion" is from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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