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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Throughout the 2024 season, Grapevine has responded through adversity. Charles Baggarly, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 8 June 2024 There, the supports that formerly sustained Cephus through adversity fall completely away: his land, his honor and his love of music. Jesse Green, New York Times, 6 June 2024 The common theme in these books is empowerment and persisting through adversity. Adam Bell, Charlotte Observer, 5 June 2024 However, watching Lisa fearlessly smile through adversity inspires us all. Brian Brant, Peoplemag, 23 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for adversity 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'adversity.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 22 Jun. 2024.

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

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