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an·​guish ˈaŋ-gwish How to pronounce anguish (audio)
: extreme pain, distress, or anxiety
cries of anguish
mental anguish


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anguished; anguishing; anguishes

intransitive verb

: to suffer anguish
He anguished over his failure.

transitive verb

: to cause to suffer anguish
a heart that had been anguished with sorrow
Choose the Right Synonym for anguish

sorrow, grief, anguish, woe, regret mean distress of mind.

sorrow implies a sense of loss or a sense of guilt and remorse.

a family united in sorrow upon the patriarch's death

grief implies poignant sorrow for an immediate cause.

the inexpressible grief of the bereaved parents

anguish suggests torturing grief or dread.

the anguish felt by the parents of the kidnapped child

woe is deep or inconsolable grief or misery.

cries of woe echoed throughout the bombed city

regret implies pain caused by deep disappointment, fruitless longing, or unavailing remorse.

nagging regret for missed opportunities

Examples of anguish in a Sentence

Noun He experienced the anguish of divorce after 10 years of marriage. They watched in anguish as fire spread through the house. Verb she was anguished by the fear that her sons would die in the war I anguished over the loss of my father for years afterwards.
Recent Examples on the Web
There’s a sense of promise despite the moments of confusion and anguish. Vrinda Jagota, SPIN, 29 May 2024 Scenes of anguish unfolded as people left homes, and sometimes pets, at a moment’s notice. Andrew E. Kramer Finbarr O’Reilly, New York Times, 22 May 2024
He’s anguished and ardent about the world and his place in it, and recovery has left him newly and painfully obsessed with his deficiencies. The New Yorker, 12 June 2024 And yet, the film has a pretty expert ensemble — Kevin Spacey won the Oscar, but Annette Bening was even more deserving — and Conrad Hall’s photography captures all the shiny surfaces that contrast with the characters’ anguished inner worlds. Will Leitch, Vulture, 11 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for anguish 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'anguish.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English angoise, angwissche, borrowed from Anglo-French anguisse, angoisse, going back to Latin angustia (usually in plural angustiae) "narrowness, narrow passage, limitations, straits" (Late Latin, "suffering, distress"), noun derivative (with -ia -y entry 2), of angustus "narrow, confined, straitened," probably from *angos- (whence angōr-, angor "suffocation, anguish") + *-to-, adjective suffix — more at anger entry 1


Middle English anguisen, anguischen "to grieve, be distressed," borrowed from Anglo-French anguisser, angoisser "to distress, cause pain to, (as reflexive verb) suffer, be tormented," going back to Late Latin angustiāre "to compress, afflict, be in difficult circumstances," derivative of Latin angustia "narrowness, straits" — more at anguish entry 1

First Known Use


13th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of anguish was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near anguish

Cite this Entry

“Anguish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: extreme pain or distress of body or mind

More from Merriam-Webster on anguish

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