From a shortening of Middle English destresse, borrowed from Old French destrecier, from Latin distringō ("to stretch out"). This form probably coalesced with Middle English stresse, from Old French estrece ("narrowness"), from Vulgar Latin *strictia, from Latin strictus ("narrow").
In the sense of "mental strain" or “disruption”, used occasionally in the 1920s and 1930s by psychologists, including Walter Cannon (1934); in “biological threat”, used by endocrinologist Hans Selye, by metaphor with stress in physics (force on an object) in the 1930s, and popularized by same in the 1950s.
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