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.
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.