ad·​ver·​si·​ty ad-ˈvər-sə-tē How to pronounce adversity (audio)
plural adversities
: a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune
showing courage in the face of adversity

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Adversity comes from Middle English adversite, meaning "opposition, hostility, misfortune, or hardship," which itself is from Latin adversus, the source of adverse, which means "bad or unfavorable," as in "adverse criticism" or "an adverse reaction to the medication."

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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web When Rod Rosenstein left the Justice Department in 2019 after a rocky two years as deputy attorney general, his former top aide and protégé, Robert Hur, delivered a roast recalling the office’s capacity for comedic relief amid adversity. C. Ryan Barber, WSJ, 12 Jan. 2023 More often than not this year, things have broken in a positive way for UWM when adversity hits. Journal Sentinel, 12 Jan. 2023 Young noted the potential for far more adversity in the playoffs, which begin Saturday when the 49ers host the Seahawks (9-8) in the wild-card round. Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Jan. 2023 Someone who embraces adversity and stays neutral through it all. Jason Hahn, Peoplemag, 9 Jan. 2023 But adversity has a way of galvanizing a team, especially an already strong one. Los Angeles Times, 6 Jan. 2023 The Bills now face perhaps their most difficult hurdle in a calendar year filled with on- and off-field adversity. Dallas News, 4 Jan. 2023 Throughout the 2022 season, the Utah Utes had no choice but to make adversity not a foe, but a friend. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 2 Jan. 2023 An embarrassing loss to the Panthers shouldn't carry over into Sunday's game, as the Lions were adamant about their ability to manage adversity and respond accordingly. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, 1 Jan. 2023 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near adversity

Cite this Entry

“Adversity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


ad·​ver·​si·​ty ad-ˈvər-sət-ē How to pronounce adversity (audio)
plural adversities
: an instance or condition of serious or continued misfortune

More from Merriam-Webster on adversity

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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