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

Synonyms & Antonyms for agony



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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

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web But this is a legitimate way to go and deBessonet and her supremely talented cast certainly deepen their vulnerability as the material darkens and the winds of agony and change swirl around the forests of life. Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, 11 July 2022 The nanny didn’t leave for a couple of months, which was agony for me. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 13 June 2022 The nanny didn’t leave for a couple of months, which was agony for me. Amy Dickinson, Washington Post, 13 June 2022 The nanny didn’t leave for a couple of months, which was agony for me. Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, 13 June 2022 Social alienation was agony for Clare, as much as seeing common lands ruined. Eula Biss, The New Yorker, 8 June 2022 That moment, however, did not call for composure, but instead a leader who reflected our collective mix of agony, outrage, and fear. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, 3 June 2022 Speaking to this extreme, a potential accelerator of pain can be a hyper obsession, reducing all other elements into the background and calling to center agony, the hopelessness that the pain will never go away. Alex Wagner, SPIN, 27 Apr. 2022 Spiraling numbers of large vehicles, including passenger vans full of tourists on the road -- which at times is single-lane with narrow switchbacks -- is compounding the agony. Julia Buckley, CNN, 15 June 2022 See More

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.

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

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agony aunt

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Last Updated

25 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Agony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for agony


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

More from Merriam-Webster on agony

Nglish: Translation of agony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of agony for Arabic Speakers


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