ag·​o·​nize ˈa-gə-ˌnīz How to pronounce agonize (audio)
agonized; agonizing

transitive verb

: to cause to suffer agony : torture

intransitive verb

: to suffer agony, torture, or anguish
agonizes over every decision

Examples of agonize in a Sentence

got into more trouble, further agonizing her poor mother agonized for days over whether she'd done the right thing
Recent Examples on the Web Investors agonize over the coming presidential election and worry about its impact on the markets and their portfolios. Jonathan Dash, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 Mendelsohn plays the designer — in his 40s during the German occupation and still working for Lucien Lelong (John Malkovich) — as fundamentally decent, a man of conscience who at least agonizes before going against his ethics. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2024 The no-moral-victories stance was the one the Nuggets took, agonizing over their five fourth-quarter turnovers and the Thunder’s seven offensive rebounds in the frame. Bennett Durando, The Denver Post, 1 Feb. 2024 Watching the coaches agonize over who to keep on their team and who to cut loose is one of the most entertaining parts of The Voice Battles., 23 Oct. 2023 The original 1950s agonizing over means and ends, bad men who may deserve forgiveness and righteous acts done for wrong reasons still comes through in this adaptation. Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Sep. 2023 At a young man’s wedding to a white woman, his father agonizes over the gradual loss of the family’s cultural identity. The New Yorker, 29 Jan. 2024 With little pressure on him this season, he’s probably agonized less and enjoyed their wins more. Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times, 5 Dec. 2023 During a race, the garage is a place to stress, agonize, listen, hope, worry, and silently pray. Corey Seymour, Vogue, 20 Nov. 2023

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

Word History


borrowed from Middle French agoniser "to exercise, struggle, suffer, (in past participle agonisé) torment," borrowed from Medieval Latin agōnizāre "to struggle, suffer death pangs," going back to Late Latin, "to fight, wrestle," borrowed from Greek agōnízesthai "to contest, fight," verbal derivative of agṓn "assembly, contest" — more at agony

First Known Use

1570, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of agonize was in 1570

Dictionary Entries Near agonize

Cite this Entry

“Agonize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ag·​o·​nize ˈag-ə-ˌnīz How to pronounce agonize (audio)
agonized; agonizing
: to suffer or cause to suffer extreme pain or anguish of body or mind

More from Merriam-Webster on agonize

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!