noun \r-ˈdē(-ə)l, ˈr-ˌ\

: an experience that is very unpleasant or difficult

Full Definition of ORDEAL

:  a primitive means used to determine guilt or innocence by submitting the accused to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under supernatural control <ordeal by fire>
:  a severe trial or experience

Examples of ORDEAL

  1. <the hikers were finally rescued after a three-day ordeal in the wilderness>

Origin of ORDEAL

Middle English ordal, from Old English ordāl; akin to Old High German urteil judgment, Old English dāl division — more at deal
First Known Use: before 12th century


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

In customary law, a test of guilt or innocence in which the accused undergoes dangerous or painful tests believed to be under supernatural control. Ordeals by fire or water are the most common. Burns suffered while passing through fire (as in Hindu custom) or rejection (i.e., being buoyed up) by a body of water (as in witch trials) would be regarded as proof of guilt. In ordeal by combat, as in the medieval duel, the victor is said to win not by his own strength but because supernatural powers have intervened on the side of the right.


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