ad·ver·si·ty | \ad-ˈvər-sə-tē \
plural adversities

Definition of adversity 

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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for adversity


ill, knock, misadventure, mischance, misfortune, mishap, tragedy


fortune, luck, serendipity

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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

Smart notes that there’s no hierarchy in the world of adversity. Judith Newman, New York Times, "Adversity Needn’t Thwart or Define You. Here’s How to Cope.," 6 July 2018 Resiliency: the ability to lead through adversity, and be stronger for it. charlotteobserver, "Ashley Christensen," 3 July 2018 Every family has to deal with something, but through love and understanding is how anyone gets through any adversity. Jordan Runtagh,, "Nick Cannon Is 'In Awe' of Mariah Carey for Going Public with Her Bipolar Disorder," 19 Apr. 2018 Jensen, a player who worked his butt off and battled through adversity to have a breakout 2017 season, is rewarded handsomely and the Ravens could now get a third- or fourth-round compensatory selection as a result. Jeff Zrebiec,, "Ravens news, notes and opinions on free agency, Allen Hurns, offensive line, Derwin James," 21 Mar. 2018 Jump move Queen Creek Casteel had adversity while playing in June 7-on-7. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Countdown: 50 things to watch for in the 2018 Arizona high school football season," 29 June 2018 Each rebounded from late-season adversity in the form of losses at Auburn that appeared to douse their playoff hopes. Bruce Feldman,, "Alabama and Georgia Explain How 2017's Best Teams Define Discipline," 3 Apr. 2018 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana provides Louisville and Southern Indiana children facing adversity with strong, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships and serves more than 1,500 children each year. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "Here's to Gary! Celebrate 50 years of news reporting with Roedemeier," 29 June 2018 Many of the attendees stated that including others in your grieving process was important — letting them know how your feeling — but to remember that not everyone deals with adversity in the same way. Sue Ellen Ross, Post-Tribune, "Group helps those coping with loss," 5 Feb. 2018

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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Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for adversity

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

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More Definitions for adversity



English Language Learners Definition of adversity

: a difficult situation or condition : misfortune or tragedy


ad·ver·si·ty | \ad-ˈvər-sə-tē \
plural adversities

Kids Definition of adversity

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

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Comments on adversity

What made you want to look up adversity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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