Definition of duress in US English:



  • 1Threats, violence, constraints, or other action brought to bear on someone to do something against their will or better judgment.

    ‘confessions extracted under duress’
    • ‘It's excruciating to watch someone so young, who probably should be free of such pressure, clearly suffering under duress.’
    • ‘They carry their load, working as a team, and I just know that they would not have been party to any ‘no air syndrome’, unless put under duress by some malevolent fish.’
    • ‘There was certainly nobody sent home under duress.’
    • ‘Friends of the sisters admitted to the press that the girls only went to the wedding under duress to support their father and left only when they thought it was polite to do so…’
    • ‘They admitted that they gave false evidence, but said that they were under duress, having been threatened with violence by various men, one of whom was in the public gallery at the original trial.’
    • ‘Some security firms have systems whereby staff can signal that they are acting under duress by dropping pre-arranged and seemingly innocuous words into their conversation.’
    • ‘It may sound unfashionably Corinthian but sport's best lesson to young people is control and grace under duress.’
    • ‘We all know the commitments were entered into under duress, with teachers threatening to effectively shut down the system and block exams.’
    • ‘And a few bright shopkeepers had actually sussed that more people actually went into their shops to look, and then maybe buy, if they weren't being menaced under duress to do so.’
    • ‘Most of the few cars that pass are American relics of the Batista era, battered but much restored; they rattle and wheeze like beasts of burden driven forward under duress.’
    • ‘In fact, the country now has no leverage on, or better negotiation position in comparison with its creditors, to force them acquiesce to such a strategy or accept it under duress.’
    • ‘The resignation of the President is not constitutional because he did that under duress and threat.’
    • ‘There were a lot of stories around before the election that people were urged to vote under duress.’
    • ‘Most interrogators will tell you that torture or physical coercion produces only bad information - that a prisoner under duress will say anything to end the pain.’
    • ‘Why, for example, were 400 people crammed under duress onto a leaky boat that, even if it were seaworthy, could carry no more than 150 people in safety?’
    • ‘If it were donkeys carrying the bags then animal welfare groups all over the world would be up in arms about the cruelty, yet we expect these caddies to lug the bag and to get yardages then make a club choice under duress.’
    • ‘Though the church consistently backed the state under communism, it clearly did so under duress and the threat of increased persecution.’
    • ‘Well, the Romans executed him on the mountain, but they did it under duress and the pressure of Jewish leaders, who hated him, not because of the cure he offered but because of the indictment.’
    • ‘Military experts point out that that code of conduct is a moral guide, not a legal guide, and that statements made under duress or torture are rarely punished or reprimanded.’
    • ‘He told this correspondent that he did not concede that it was withdrawn under duress, because of the agitation mounted by the communal organisations but described it as an appropriate step.’
    coercion, compulsion, force, pressure, pressurization, intimidation, threats, constraint, enforcement, exaction
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    1. 1.1Law Constraint illegally exercised to force someone to perform an act.
      • ‘My wife was forced under extreme duress to sign consent orders which are not in the best interests of the children.’
      • ‘Today there is much overlap with the common law principle of duress as this principle has subsequently been developed.’
      • ‘A brief review of the law indicates that a contract claimed to be entered under duress or undue influence is voidable, not void; it may be ratified by subsequent conduct.’
      • ‘At the end of the day, your Honours, the issue was whether or not a person who is not an employee can bring proceedings for the contravention of statutory duress.’
      coercion, force, compulsion, constraint, oppression, enforcement, insistence, demand, entreaty, goading, pestering, provocation, harassment, nagging, harrying, badgering, intimidation, arm-twisting, pressurization, persuasion, influence
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    2. 1.2archaic Forcible restraint or imprisonment.
      • ‘At the very least, they have been held for months in solitary confinement - treatment that constitutes a form of psychological duress and is thus prohibited under the Geneva Conventions.’
      imprisonment, internment, confinement, detention, custody, captivity, restraint
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Middle English (in the sense ‘harshness, severity, cruel treatment’): via Old French from Latin duritia, from durus ‘hard’.