ad·​ver·​si·​ty | \ ad-ˈvər-sə-tē How to pronounce adversity (audio) \
plural adversities

Essential Meaning of adversity

: a difficult situation or condition : misfortune or tragedy He showed courage in the face of adversity. We had to learn to deal with adversity. They overcame many adversities.

Full Definition of adversity

: a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune showing courage in the face of adversity

Synonyms & Antonyms for adversity



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Choose the Right Synonym for adversity

misfortune, mischance, adversity, mishap mean adverse fortune or an instance of this. misfortune may apply to either the incident or conjunction of events that is the cause of an unhappy change of fortune or to the ensuing state of distress. never lost hope even in the depths of misfortune mischance applies especially to a situation involving no more than slight inconvenience or minor annoyance. took the wrong road by mischance adversity applies to a state of grave or persistent misfortune. had never experienced great adversity mishap applies to an often trivial instance of bad luck. the usual mishaps of a family vacation

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Adversity, "mischance," "misfortune," and "mishap" all suggest difficulty of one sort or another. "Adversity" particularly applies to a state of grave or persistent misfortune (as in "a childhood marked by great adversity"). "Mishap" suggests an often trivial instance of bad luck (as in "the usual mishaps of a family vacation"). "Misfortune" is the most common and the most general of the terms, often functioning as a simple synonym of "bad luck" (as in "They had the misfortune to get a flat tire on the way to their wedding"). "Mischance" applies especially to a situation involving no more than slight inconvenience or minor annoyance (as in "Some small mischance befell us").

Examples of adversity in a Sentence

After two years of research, I discovered that everyone has a crisis personality survivor IQ—that they marshal in a moment of adversity: a mindset and ways of thinking about a situation. — Ben Sherwood, Newsweek, 2 Feb. 2009 Perhaps because their brains are wired differently, dyslexics are often skilled problem solvers, coming at solutions from novel or surprising angles and making conceptual leaps.  … It may also be that their early struggle with reading better prepares them for dealing with adversity in a volatile, fast-changing world. — Christine Gorman, Time, 28 July 2003 High school, college and even NFL teams have been getting a quick morale boost by going to see Remember the Titans, the schmaltzy but uplifting story about (what else?) a football squad overcoming adversity. Sports Illustrated, 6 Nov. 2000 The narrative plot is clearly defined, and it is classically familiar: Huck (without Jim) and Tom Sawyer light out for unknown territory to discover their manhood by successfully confronting the harsh adversities of life. — John W. Aldridge, Atlantic, August 1994 He showed courage in the face of adversity. We had to learn to deal with adversity.
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Recent Examples on the Web The result is a film that captures not only a political moment but an almost national temperament, one that leads with sarcasm and levity in the face of adversity. The New Yorker, 24 Nov. 2021 Spurs point guard Tre Jones has faced his share of adversity this year. Tom Orsborn, San Antonio Express-News, 17 Nov. 2021 There has been adversity since, but the family bond has remained strong. José M. Romero, The Arizona Republic, 11 Nov. 2021 Sunday, they were reminded: Relying on late rebounds from adversity is dangerous. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, 9 Nov. 2021 Resilience, or bouncing back from adversity, is a crucial skill for wellbeing. Julia Wuench, Forbes, 3 Nov. 2021 It’s an age-old adage and a particularly apt one for some of the Patriots rookies, who have shown the ability to bounce back from adversity and become big contributors., 20 Oct. 2021 The Arizona State football team has dealt with adversity in recent weeks, most of it caused by back-to-back losses against Utah and Washington State on the playing field. Michelle Gardner, The Arizona Republic, 8 Nov. 2021 Faced with such adversity, consumers have no choice but to purchase excessively roomy jeans and then start slamming away the bacon-double-cheeseburgers. Major League Baseball. Joe Queenan, WSJ, 21 Oct. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'adversity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of adversity

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for adversity

Middle English adversite "opposition, hostility, misfortune, hardship," borrowed from Anglo-French adversité, aversité, borrowed from Late Latin adversitāt-, adversitās (Latin, "power of counteracting"), from Latin adversus adverse + -itāt-, -itās -ity

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The first known use of adversity was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near adversity

adverse yaw



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Last Updated

29 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Adversity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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More Definitions for adversity


ad·​ver·​si·​ty | \ ad-ˈvər-sə-tē How to pronounce adversity (audio) \
plural adversities

Kids Definition of adversity

: hard times : misfortune Despite the adversity of his childhood, he achieved great success.

More from Merriam-Webster on adversity

Nglish: Translation of adversity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of adversity for Arabic Speakers


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