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 Luckily, indie musicians Phoebe Bridgers and Maggie Rogers have recognized our collective anguish and provided us with a solution. Emma Specter, Vogue, "Phoebe Bridgers and Maggie Rogers’s Cover of ‘Iris’ Is the Sole Ray of Light in My Life," 13 Nov. 2020 The poster boy for their anguish and frustration was Kershaw, who has been the best pitcher of his generation, but was burdened by his struggles in October. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, "'It’s an unfortunate endpoint': Dodgers' World Series win marred by Justin Turner's return to field for celebration," 28 Oct. 2020 Her anguish is illustrated by her bulimia, seen in several painful scenes of bingeing and purging. Elizabeth Holmes, Town & Country, "A Royally Candid Interview with The Crown's Emma Corrin, Josh O'Connor, and Emerald Fennell," 21 Oct. 2020 His Twitter profile photo is a photo of him in anguish during the College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson in 2018. Tyler James, The Indianapolis Star, "Ian Book comes up clutch in Notre Dame upset of No. 1 Clemson," 8 Nov. 2020 And yet, despite the anguish and uncertainty, many are still thinking about the November 3 election and how to cast a ballot without a stable address. Julia Thomas, The New Republic, "Election Season Is Wildfire Season. These Voters Lost Everything.," 29 Oct. 2020 And the people, huddled inside, bracing against the winds and the anguish, will get angrier and lonelier and angrier. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, "An October Surprise in New England," 6 Oct. 2020 The coach understands the mental anguish that isolation and loneliness can create. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "Titans coach Mike Vrabel determined to keep suicide prevention message going: 'People are there for you'," 30 Sep. 2020 Swamp Dogg delivers his own affecting version here, accentuating the anguish. Philadelphia Inquirer Star Tribune Wire Services, Star Tribune, "New music reviews: Killers offer grandiose pleasures; Swamp Dogg duets with John Prine," 3 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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,, "Klay Thompson injury sucks joy out of Warriors’ big draft night," 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,, "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

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for anguish

Last Updated

25 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Anguish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2020.

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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

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