an·​guish | \ ˈaŋ-gwish How to pronounce anguish (audio) \

Definition of anguish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: extreme pain, distress, or anxiety cries of anguish mental anguish


anguished; anguishing; anguishes

Definition of anguish (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Planted in a garden bed in front of the fence were the heads of 55 Black men impaled on metal rods, their eyes shut and jaws clenched in anguish. John Blake, CNN, 2 Oct. 2021 In August, the world looked on in anguish as chaos erupted in Afghanistan. The New Yorker, 2 Oct. 2021 Le Mec is going to all this trouble because he's been in mental anguish ever since Lucifer whispered to him at the end of season 5. Sara Netzley,, 10 Sep. 2021 Simultaneously confronting his mother’s death and father’s emergence, Spencer navigates anguish and abandonment, all while testing the waters of intimacy with his airplane seatmate love interest, Petrushka (Jasmine Joy Brooks). Washington Post, 20 Aug. 2021 So imagine the anguish and horror on April 9, 2021, when a routine check-up resulted in my mom being kept in a London hospital to prepare for emergency open-heart surgery -- a triple bypass. Billboard Staff, Billboard, 6 May 2021 The lawsuit seeks $75,000 for attorney fees and other damages including loss of educational opportunities, mental anguish and medical expenses. Rory Linnane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 23 Apr. 2021 Willie Nelson’s Phases and Stages, released a couple of years after Blue, relays similar messages of anguish and heartache, but from both the woman’s (side one of the record) and the man’s (side two) perspective. Gracie Anderson, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 Sep. 2021 Tens of thousands of Afghans remain behind in anguish and fear. Conor Finnegan, ABC News, 18 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Kapur’s prose is nimble and fluid, as his attitude toward his material shifts from dismay to anger to anguish and, finally, to hope., 16 July 2021 In an instant, the world’s focus on Minnesota shifted from the trial of Derek Chauvin to a new outrage that brought street protests, promises of reform, and anguish over a relentless pattern of deadly police misconduct. Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 2021 Rather than lip-sync the numbers, Day sings them in a voice that has some of Holiday’s signature breathy rasp and delicate lilt, and suggests her ability to move from whimsy to anguish and back in the space of a phrase. New York Times, 25 Feb. 2021 Forty-four years of anticipation turned to anguish, all because of excursions to Seattle. Star Tribune, 10 Dec. 2020 The fire consumed 157,000 acres, feasting on a forest choked with grasses and brush and trees, and leaving behind ashes and anguish amid the rubble of 200 homes. Martin Kuz, The Christian Science Monitor, 30 Nov. 2020 That’s not an uncommon reaction for drafted centers in Warriors’ history, except that this time the tears were of joy, not anguish. Scott Ostler,, 18 Nov. 2020 But at post office branches throughout the region, people cited a long list of problems — from late bills to anguish over the November election. Kevin Fagan,, 18 Aug. 2020 General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have talked of being anguished about trading Buckner to the Colts in March in a move inspired by salary-cap issues. Eric Branch,, 5 May 2020

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.

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First Known Use of anguish


13th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for anguish


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

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Time Traveler for anguish

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

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Last Updated

9 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Anguish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for anguish


an·​guish | \ ˈaŋ-gwish How to pronounce anguish (audio) \

Kids Definition of anguish

: great physical or emotional pain

More from Merriam-Webster on anguish

Nglish: Translation of anguish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of anguish for Arabic Speakers


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