Etymology
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distress (n.)

late 13c., "circumstance that causes anxiety or hardship," from Old French destresse (Modern French détresse), from Vulgar Latin *districtia "restraint, affliction, narrowness, distress," from Latin districtus, past participle of distringere "draw apart, hinder," also, in Medieval Latin "compel, coerce," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + stringere "draw tight, press together" (see strain (v.)). Meaning "anguish; grief; pain or suffering of the body or mind" is from c. 1300.

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distress (v.)

late 14c., distressen, "constrain or compel by pain, suffering, or other circumstances; harass," from Old French destresser "restrain, constrain; afflict, distress," from Vulgar Latin *districtiare "restraint, affliction, narrowness, distress," from Latin districtus, past participle of distringere "draw apart, hinder," also, in Medieval Latin "compel, coerce," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + stringere "draw tight, press together" (see strain (v.)).

From c. 1400 as "afflict with mental or physical pain, make miserable." From early 15c. as "to damage;" specifically "damage a piece of furniture to make it appear older (and thus more valuable)" by 1926.

My particular job is "distressing" new furniture—banging, hammering and knocking it to give it the wear of time. This is not so easy a task as it seems. The smallest mistake may make all your work useless. In high-class "antiques" such as we carry, you have to satisfy not only the average person but people who go in for furniture as a hobby. ["It's a Wise Man Who Knows a Real Antique," Popular Science Monthly, June 1926]
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distressing (adj.)

"very painful or afflicting," 1580s, present-participle adjective from distress (v.). Related: Distressingly.

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distressed (adj.)

1580s, "suffering distress, afflicted with pain or trouble," past-participle adjective from distress. In reference to furniture, "damaged in order to appear older," by 1940.

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distressful (adj.)

1590s, "inflicting or bringing distress," from distress + -ful. From c. 1600 as "indicating distress." Related: Distressfully; distressfulness.

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stress (n.)
c. 1300, "hardship, adversity, force, pressure," in part a shortening of Middle English distress (n.); in part from Old French estrece "narrowness, oppression," from Vulgar Latin *strictia, from Latin strictus "tight, compressed, drawn together," past participle of stringere "draw tight" (see strain (v.)). Meaning "physical strain on a material object" is from mid-15c. As an abstract force in mechanics from 1855. The purely psychological sense is attested from 1955.
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stress (v.)

c. 1300, stressen, "to subject (someone) to force or compulsion," a short form of distress (v.), or else from Old French estrecier, estrescer, from Vulgar Latin *strictiare, from Latin stringere "draw tight," which also is 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.

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district (n.)

1610s, "territory under the jurisdiction of a lord or officer," from French district (16c.), from Medieval Latin districtus "restraining of offenders, jurisdiction," then under the feudal system "area of jurisdiction, district within which the lord may take and withhold personal property (distrain) for legal reasons." It is a noun use of the past participle of Latin distringere "to draw apart, hinder," also in Medieval Latin "compel, coerce," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + stringere "draw tight, press together" (see strain (v.)).

Compare distress (v.) which originally in English also had a sense of "constrain or compel." District was used generally of "a limited extent of a country marked off for a special purpose" by 1660s, then vaguely of "any tract of land" by 1712. In the U.S., it generally indicates that the inhabitants act together for some specific purpose (school district, etc.). District attorney is attested by 1789, American English.

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misery (n.)

late 14c., "state of grievous affliction, condition of external unhappiness," from Old French misere "miserable situation, misfortune, distress" (12c.), from Latin miseria "wretchedness," from miser "wretched, pitiable" (see miser). Meaning "condition of one in great sorrow or mental distress" is from 1530s.

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anguish (v.)
mid-14c., angwisshen, intransitive and reflexive ("be troubled or distressed; feel agony") and transitive ("cause grief, distress,or torment"); from Old French angoissier (12c., Modern French angoisser), from angoisse "distress, anxiety, rage" (see anguish (n.)). Related: Anguished; anguishing.
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