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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

Example Sentences

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
Hundreds of people marched Sunday in France to honor an Iranian Kurdish man who took his own life in a desperate act of anguish over the nationwide protests in Iran. Arkansas Online, 9 Jan. 2023 Hundreds of people marched Sunday in France to honor an Iranian Kurdish man who took his own life in a desperate act of anguish over the nationwide protests in Iran. Time, 8 Jan. 2023 Once the darling stock of many investors' portfolios, Tesla is now a source of anguish. Elisabeth Buchwald, USA TODAY, 29 Dec. 2022 In farce timing is everything, from the right look of anguish to the rhythm of the slamming doors. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 19 Dec. 2022 The film is a stunning tribute to Boseman that examines the anguish and rage of grief through T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and her clash with Talokan leader Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia). Aramide Tinubu, Essence, 29 Dec. 2022 And so, despite denial, grief, bargaining, anguish and even nausea, the Great Deaccession commenced. Karen Heller, Anchorage Daily News, 18 Dec. 2022 Quantifying antisemitism right now by numbers of hate crimes is useful, but doesn’t capture the peculiar anguish and human complexities of its day-to-day pervasiveness. Jason Zinoman, New York Times, 9 Dec. 2022 On this rereading, I was haunted by Tolstoy’s strange, beautiful multi-chapter scene about Konstantin Levin mowing his own field with a scythe: an intimate portrait of the anguish and the miracle of graceful work by a writer who knew both. The New Yorker, 29 Nov. 2022
But as her shell cracks, Dern moves from perplexity to anguish to incandescent rage, never once overplaying her hand. Matthew Jacobs, Vulture, 3 June 2022 The swirl of stories and drama — including her mother's book detailing her anger and anguish over Whitney's drug addiction and the later feud between the Brown and Houston families over Bobbi Kristina's hospitalization and death — has continued. Liz Mcneil, Peoplemag, 9 Dec. 2022 The Colorado Springs shooting is one recent illustration of how violence – or the threat of violence – can turn a place that was once a source of comfort for a particular vulnerable group into a site of fear, even anguish. Brandon Tensley, CNN, 24 Nov. 2022 The SuperSonics’ departure still provokes anger and anguish among fans. Dina Bass, Fortune, 22 Oct. 2022 The trial is expected to be similar to the one in Texas, with victims' relatives testifying about the pain and anguish the hoax conspiracy caused them and medical professionals answering questions about the relatives' mental health and diagnoses. CBS News, 12 Sep. 2022 Many of you expressed sorrow and anguish over the needless death and the sheer number of mass shootings, more than 200 so far this year alone. Christina Prignano,, 31 May 2022 The characters are nearly unrecognizable, anguish on their faces, the hostility of the attack quite palpable. Holly Jones, Variety, 9 May 2022 The new disclosures prompted outrage in other world capitals as well – and anguish among the Uyghur diaspora. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, 24 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anguish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


: extreme pain or distress of body or mind

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