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 As cancellations and postponements spread across every level of sports in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country on Thursday started to come to terms with an extended interruption of both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Mike Finger,, "Sports world coming to terms with widespread shutdown," 12 Mar. 2020 During one performance two female dancers threw old shoes around the stage and grimaced in agony. Clair Macdougall, Quartz Africa, "Photos: Burkina Faso’s contemporary dance festival turns the discourse away from terror," 3 Feb. 2020 As the legendary intro to the Wide World of Sports reminded us as kids, there is nothing like the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Larry Fitzgerald,, "How Sports Can Help America Heal," 6 Sep. 2019 But all this speculation and agony will soon come to fruition as Ford is set to debut the Bronco lineup later this month. David Beard, Car and Driver, "New Ford Bronco May Get Seven-Speed Manual Transmission," 2 Mar. 2020 After all, a playwright can’t do an hour and 45 minutes of unadulterated agony. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "Review: In ‘Anatomy of a Suicide,’ Pain in Triplicate," 18 Feb. 2020 In other words, the patchwork is usefully painful for companies: The agony stimulates them to come to the table. Susan Crawford, Wired, "Facial Recognition Laws Are (Literally) All Over the Map," 16 Dec. 2019 All the questions and agonies of the Irish border debates in Brexit would play out on a much larger scale if Scotland sought to leave the customs and currency territory of the United Kingdom for that of the European Union. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Judgment Day U.K.: Tories Win Big," 13 Dec. 2019 But the pain from that injury was nothing compared to the agony the Pro Bowl left tackle was feeling Sunday night after the 49ers blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 31-20 loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Eric Branch,, "49ers’ Joe Staley hurting after long-awaited Super Bowl title slips away," 2 Feb. 2020

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 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Agony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

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More Definitions for agony


How to pronounce agony (audio)

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

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