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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for agony



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Luke is clearly a contemporary Christ figure, an analogy complete to his denial by the disciples, the final agony in the garden, the confrontation with a betrayer and his sacrifice for humanity. John Mahoney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Cool Hand Luke': THR's 1967 Review," 31 Oct. 2019 Colson Whitehead, craftsman of beauty from the raw material of American pain, has chosen to acknowledge the school’s century of untold agony in his new novel, The Nickel Boys. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Colson Whitehead, American Escape Artist," 30 July 2019 Some ecstasy and agony in Florida Lottery news as one player claims her prize in a million dollar win from a scratch-off game and another player risks losing nearly $193,000 from a Fantasy 5 ticket that will expire soon. Doug Phillips,, "Broward winner claims $1 million lottery prize as someone is set to lose out on $193,000," 12 June 2019 Then came the wasp with a sting so painful that an actual scientist’s actual advice for those who get stung by this thing is to just lie down and scream until the agony subsides. Matt Simon, Wired, "Absurd Planet: WIRED’s Absurd Creatures Series Gets New Life on Netflix," 23 Apr. 2020 Greece’s economic agony over the last decade gives some insights as to how this will play out. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Euro Zone: Intermission," 17 Apr. 2020 In a sign of the magnitude of the crisis, one of the more hopeful moments was a reference to Italy's downward curve in infections after weeks of agony. Eliza Mackintosh, CNN, "What you need to know about coronavirus on Wednesday, April 1," 1 Apr. 2020 Consider Kim's Thierry Mugler dress for the 2019 Met Gala, which involved a super tight corset that inflicted actual physical agony. Emily Dixon, Marie Claire, "Kim Kardashian Really Struggled to Get Into Her Latex Paris Fashion Week Outfit," 23 Mar. 2020 One team’s thrill of victory was about to be short-lived and another team’s agony of defeat was about to be unnecessary. Louisville Courier Journal, The Courier-Journal, "Courier Journal staff's behind-the-scenes stories of covering a global pandemic's local impact," 15 Mar. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about agony

Time Traveler for agony

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for agony

Last Updated

15 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Agony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!