I was really stressed out before finals.

I'd been working flat out and was stressed out.

I've got too much to do and I'm completely stressed out.

I wonder why we need 'out' here. What's the meaning of 'out'?

  • 2
    It's an idiom, and the exact history might be unknowable. Be alert to answers that sound good but provide no documentation. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 6:03
  • 5
    It's one of language's 'emphasis fillers'. English uses a lot of 'directions' which aren't actually indicative of movement. Stressed out, screwed up, pissed off, etc. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 6:53
  • 1
    @JeffreyCarney unknowable to anyone without a dictionary.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 8:28
  • @Atralbee, I stand corrected. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 13:23

1 Answer 1


Cambridge defines this particular use of 'out' as:

out adverb, preposition (VERY)
used to make the meaning of a word stronger.

The cited example is to "sort [something] out", meaning to deal with it completely.

Other common uses include 'chill out', to relax completely; 'tired out', meaning completely exhausted; and your example, 'stress out', to become excessively stressed over something.

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