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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Early that Sunday morning, as Americans across the country prepared excitedly to return to houses of worship, Butler, a churchgoer himself, poured his anguish and anger into an email to a few colleagues. Anchorage Daily News, "Inside the Fall of the CDC," 16 Oct. 2020 The connection is inescapable: A life-altering injury is followed by months of physical and mental anguish, and then, hopefully, a career begins anew. Ben Shpigel, New York Times, "N.F.L.’s Next Man Up Ethos Persists Through Injury and Pandemic," 16 Oct. 2020 Early that Sunday morning, as Americans across the country prepared excitedly to return to houses of worship, Butler, a churchgoer himself, poured his anguish and anger into an email to a few colleagues. James Bandler, ProPublica, "Inside the Fall of the CDC," 15 Oct. 2020 Senekua Mays, Aaron's mother, posted her anguish to Facebook. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit rapper Jizzle P violently gunned down in front of his mother," 24 Sep. 2020 Collectively, pastors characterized the pandemic as both a source of anguish and a motive for hopefulness. David Crary, Star Tribune, "Amid pandemic challenges, houses of worship show resiliency," 3 Oct. 2020 Akhtar’s forceful, direct prose conveys a poetic sense of anguish. Ew Staff,, "Homeland Elegies and Conditional Citizens explore life in America as an 'other'," 23 Sep. 2020 Those around us might dismiss or minimize our anguish, brushing it aside as unwarranted. Washington Post, "Why do we grieve so deeply for public figures like Justice Ginsburg?," 23 Sep. 2020 There probably is some terrible pain and anguish to be doled out there. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Exclusive: "The Umbrella Academy" Star Robert Sheehan On What's in Store for Klaus in Season 3," 13 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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,, "Late pension checks and delayed medications: Bay Area residents decry postal service problems," 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,, "49ers’ Joe Staley reveals details of injuries that led to retirement," 5 May 2020 As the self-doubting Miles, a man for whom every night is the dark night of the soul, Giamatti makes the best use of his querulous persona, investing an unerring comic touch in a character who is genuinely anguished. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Aged to perfection, Alexander Payne’s ‘Sideways’ is worth more than a glance," 1 Apr. 2020 For months, Democrats had been anguishing that the primary had turned into a circular firing squad. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Super Tuesday Was Mainly About Donald Trump, Not Joe Biden," 5 Mar. 2020 That stunning playoff loss was one of many anguishing disappointments for Dodger fans of that era. Bruce Weber,, "Roger Kahn, 92, lifted sportswriting to an art with ‘Boys of Summer’," 7 Feb. 2020 Coleman is anguished his daughter was born into life-threatening circumstances. Eric Branch,, "49ers’ Tevin Coleman is a survivor and believes his daughter will be, too," 14 Jan. 2020 The widow of former Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings anguished over how President Trump’s remarks about her husband's district had an effect on him in his final months. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "'It undermined his health': Elijah Cummings widow condemns Trump for calling husband’s district 'infested'," 20 Jan. 2020 Lennon’s anguished paean to Ono—a trio of highly polished yet one-dimensional songs that occasionally verge on self-parody. Jonathan Gould, The New Yorker, "When the Beatles Walked Offstage: Fifty Years of “Abbey Road”," 21 Oct. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about anguish

Time Traveler for anguish

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for anguish

Last Updated

20 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Anguish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for anguish


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

Kids Definition of anguish

: great physical or emotional pain

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on anguish

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Namesakes Word Quiz

  • a citrus fruit possibly named after a person
  • Which of the following is a fruit named after a Moroccan seaport?
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!