ag·​o·​ny | \ˈa-gə-nē \
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


Gehenna, hell, horror, misery, murder, nightmare, torment, torture


heaven, paradise

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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

To many here, Greeks’ economic sacrifices to stay in the euro look like agony without end. WSJ, "Many Greeks Struggle to Keep Their Heads Above Water as Bailout Ends," 20 Aug. 2018 The film implies that seismic geopolitical changes take a physical toll on the bodies of the marginalized, one that manifests onscreen in the bone-cracking agony of dance and ultimately erupts in geysers of blood. Aja Romano, Vox, "How Suspiria turns the color red into a plot point," 9 Nov. 2018 This must be what my husband, who never uses chapstick or balm or any type of lip salve and never has had to suffer the agony of having chapped lips in his life, feels like. Andrea Cheng, Glamour, "Tatcha's Jelly Mask Smooths Your Lips Like No Lip Balm Can," 28 Sep. 2018 Before the finals of September 8 and 9, expect to witness the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, a few unthinkable upsets, and likely some raucous behavior in the stands. Corey Seymour, Vogue, "How to Prepare for the U.S. Open? Let’s Ask a Pro," 27 Aug. 2018 While this spared some amount of yelling in the short term, the move — which was still hugely unpopular with a vocal segment of the user base — needlessly prolonged the agony. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Twitter’s fear of making hard decisions is killing it," 17 Aug. 2018 In addition to Piper and Alex, pregnant Lorna (Yael Stone) shields herself from the agony of Litchfield with the mere illusion of romance. Candice Frederick, Teen Vogue, ""Orange is the New Black" Season 6 Has the Women Striving for Peace and Community More Than Ever," 27 July 2018 The Swans suffered the agony of relegation at the end of last season, bringing their seven-year spell in English football's top flight to an unhappy end., "Swansea City Board Release Statement as Club Prepares for Life in the Championship," 28 June 2018 But the Arctic explorer now says that all of that physical duress pales in comparison to the agony of watching his son go through the same experience 32 years later. Christina Capatides, CBS News, "Expedition Antarctica: A father and son's journey to save the planet," 22 June 2018

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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Statistics for agony

Last Updated

28 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for agony

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

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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 \
plural agonies

Kids Definition of agony

: great physical pain or emotional distress


ag·​o·​ny | \ˈag-ə-nē \
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

Comments on agony

What made you want to look up agony? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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