In this study the effects of stress-induced cortisol increases on long-term memory retrieval during and after acute psychosocial stress were examined. Seventy male students were exposed to either a psychosocial stress task or to a non-stressful control task. During and after this task, retrieval was tested for idiosyncratic emotionally negative and neutral word pair associations that were learned 1 day or 5 weeks earlier. Within the stress condition, retrieval of negative words, 5 weeks after learning, was impaired both during and after the stress task compared to the control group. Further, during the stress task, when sympathetic activity was enhanced, impaired retrieval of both neutral and emotional words was significantly related to enhanced cortisol response. In contrast, after the stress task, when cortisol levels were still increased but sympathetic activity was low again, no association was found between cortisol increase and retrieval of either neutral or emotional material. These results are in line with the previous animal research showing that when arousal is high, cortisol increase can impair memory retrieval.