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



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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 Improving nursing home staffing and care models can help spare millions of families – including mine – the future agony of deciding whether nursing homes are a good place for mom or dad. Bianca Frogner, The Conversation, "One change that could help nursing homes recover from COVID-19 fears and become safer places for aging parents," 13 Apr. 2021 Swayam Bhatia captures nicely the agony of trying to be a good person playing on a great team made up of bad people (Evan wants to poach her from the Ducks for the Don’t Bothers). Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "Why Lauren Graham and Emilio Estevez can't save cliched 'The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers'," 24 Mar. 2021 The finale of The Godfather Part III, with a father screaming in agony over the body of his dead child, was thus unbearably devastating to anyone familiar with the director’s ordeals during this time. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, "The Greatest Godfather Ending of Them All," 25 Feb. 2021 Best Performances shoots, ranked by the agony, discomfort, and cries for help in their eyes. Justin Curto, Vulture, "W Magazine Cover Stars, Ranked by How Much Pain They’re In," 25 Feb. 2021 And just like that, after 13 years of agony, the necklace was sold. Tori Telfer,, "The Sordid Tale Of The Woman Who Scammed Marie-Antoinette," 24 Feb. 2021 Its androgynous muse appears to be in some kind of agony and bold waves of color overwhelm the spectator. Jack Durschlag, Fox News, "Legal experts: Cuomo nursing home scandal may rise to federal offense level," 22 Feb. 2021 Sánchez described his surgeries — in 1985, 1997 and 1998 — as agony. Washington Post, "Pablo Sánchez, longtime Washington correspondent and producer for Univision, dies of covid-19," 18 Mar. 2021 Within days many died in agony from massive infections. Peter Keough,, "Looking at this year’s Oscar final five," 18 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for agony

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

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Statistics for agony

Last Updated

20 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Agony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

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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

Nglish: Translation of agony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of agony for Arabic Speakers

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