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 They have been swept up in the grand movements of history in Tolstoy’s War and Peace and overwhelmed by the bright and bitter agony of love in the epic volumes of Proust. Jeremy Tate, National Review, "Nobody Wants to Cancel the Classics — Except Academic Elites," 6 May 2021 Watching his agony, my coach jumped in and took over. Yamini Virani, Forbes, "What’s Your Design Thinking Team’s Superpower And Achilles’ Heel?," 4 May 2021 Luis Saez has known the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat — almost simultaneously. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "After Kentucky Derby disqualification, jockey Luis Saez is shedding his 'reckless' image," 25 Apr. 2021 Our agony, our tears, our careful study of the videos released Thursday won't bring him back. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | COLUMNIST: We must do better in memory of Adam," 17 Apr. 2021 The Stones offered him a way to matter, and the Gangster Disciples offered him an enemy more reachable than the real causes of his agony. Jonathan Marks, WSJ, "‘High Conflict’ Review: When Push Comes to Shove," 7 Apr. 2021 Some rooms effectively replicate the feel of a live events space, complete with open mic nights (in all its glorious agony). Nicholas Quah, Vulture, "Does Clubhouse Mean Bad Things for Podcasting?," 16 Feb. 2021 The health worker's father has just died, and her agony at not being able to sit by his side is overwhelming. Jake Coyle, Star Tribune, "In '76 Days,' a documentary portrait of lockdown in Wuhan," 1 Dec. 2020 Their agony is not in deciding between President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Claire Galofaro, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Raw exposed nerves’: An anxious nation awaits Election Day and its aftermath," 2 Nov. 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

14 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Agony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 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

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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