ag·​o·​ny | \ ˈa-gə-nē How to pronounce agony (audio) \
plural agonies

Definition of agony

1a : intense pain of mind or body : anguish, torture the agony of rejection the agony of defeat
b : the struggle that precedes death
2 : a violent struggle or contest the agonies of battle
3 : a strong sudden display (as of joy or delight) : outburst an agony of mirth

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Synonyms & Antonyms for agony


Gehenna, hell, horror, misery, murder, nightmare, torment, torture


heaven, paradise

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Choose the Right Synonym for agony

distress, suffering, misery, agony mean the state of being in great trouble. distress implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress. the hurricane put everyone in great distress suffering implies conscious endurance of pain or distress. the suffering of famine victims misery stresses the unhappiness attending especially sickness, poverty, or loss. the homeless live with misery every day agony suggests pain too intense to be borne. in agony over the death of their child

Did You Know?

In Ancient Greece, a public gathering was called agon. Since the Greeks placed a high value on sports and athletic competition, there were almost always athletic events at gatherings on festival days. The struggle to win the prize in such contests came to be called agonia. This term came also to be used for any difficult physical struggle and then for the pain that went with it—physical or mental. Our English word agony, meaning “intense pain of mind or body,” thus comes from a word that meant a happy celebration.

Examples of agony in a Sentence

She was in terrible agony after breaking her leg. The medicine relieves the agony of muscle cramps very quickly. It was agony to watch him suffer like that.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The agony of defeat was particularly brief Sunday because when the 11-0 loss on a no-hitter by Justin Lee of South Loudon, Va., was over, the players were free to interact with major leaguers in town for the third annual MLB Little League Classic. Tom Robinson / Special To The Pioneer Press, Twin Cities, "Little League World Series: Coon Rapids/Andover eliminated," 19 Aug. 2019 This one is in Congo, where about 1,700 people have died over the past year and 2,500 have been infected with the deadly virus, which inflicts days of agony, hemorrhaging, diarrhea and vomiting. Dallas News, "Amid a new outbreak, book revisits Ebola's ravages," 5 Aug. 2019 This one is in Congo, where about 1,700 people have died over the past year and 2,500 have been infected with the deadly virus, which inflicts days of agony, hemorrhaging, diarrhea and vomiting. Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post, "Amid a new outbreak, revisiting Ebola’s ravages," 2 Aug. 2019 Wead is played by Ford’s favorite tragic hero, John Wayne—and Ford doesn’t stint on the tragedy, the physical agony and the wreckage of family life that are central to the hero’s experience. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "Review: Quentin Tarantino’s Obscenely Regressive Vision of the Sixties in “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood”," 27 July 2019 His powerful vocals and facial expressions brilliantly portrayed Jesus's agony and sorrow during his crucifixion. Brooke Coughlan,, "Cappies reviews for 'Godspell' by Roger Bacon High School," 22 July 2019 On 8 July 2014, an entire nation wept in agony and anguish, helplessly watching on as a German onslaught brought their World Cup dreams to a brutal end., "Brazil 1-7 Germany: Remembering Die Mannschaft's Seven-Goal Annihilation of the Seleção," 8 July 2019 Further Reading The agony and ecstasy of (grassroots) racing Over the years, the SCCA grew into a sprawling amateur racing organization, reaching a crescendo in the '80s when actor Paul Newman took up the hobby. Gregory Leporati, Ars Technica, "Racing’s not just for rich guys—a look at the American grassroots scene," 13 June 2019 This has been a Mariners season of extremes, where ecstasy and agony have each made cameo appearances, and a sense of dread coexists with the underlying motif of hope. Larry Stone, The Seattle Times, "Only one question matters this Mariners season: How is the step back affecting the step forward?," 19 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'agony.' 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 agony

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for agony

Middle English agonie, borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French agonie, borrowed from Late Latin agōnia, borrowed from Greek agōnía "contest, struggle, anguish," from agṓn "gathering, assembly at games, contest for a prize" (derivative of ágein "to lead, drive") + -ia -y entry 2 — more at agent

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Statistics for agony

Last Updated

5 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for agony

The first known use of agony was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for agony



English Language Learners Definition of agony

: extreme mental or physical pain


ag·​o·​ny | \ ˈa-gə-nē How to pronounce agony (audio) \
plural agonies

Kids Definition of agony

: great physical pain or emotional distress


ag·​o·​ny | \ ˈag-ə-nē How to pronounce agony (audio) \
plural agonies

Medical Definition of agony

1 : intense pain of mind or body
2 : the struggle that precedes death

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More from Merriam-Webster on agony

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for agony

Spanish Central: Translation of agony

Nglish: Translation of agony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of agony for Arabic Speakers

Comments on agony

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


to make a temporary encampment

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