frus·​tra·​tion | \(ˌ)frə-ˈstrā-shən \

Definition of frustration 

1 : the act of frustrating the frustration of creative instinct is a notorious evil of the machine ageThe Times Literary Supplement (London)

2a : the state or an instance of being frustrated These bureaucratic delays have been causing us a lot of frustration.

b : a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs loneliness and frustration; those are two constant themes in American literature— Malcolm Cowley

3 : something that frustrates the government's frustrations with seemingly insoluble problems

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Examples of frustration in a Sentence

He shook his head in frustration. These bureaucratic delays have been causing us a lot of frustration. These delays have proven to be a major frustration. We've been experiencing a lot of frustrations. He was angry about the frustration of his plans.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The candidates are running to replace Representative Pat Tiberi, a pro-business, old-line Republican who stepped down in frustration before his term ended to take a position with the Ohio Business Roundtable. Michael Tackett, New York Times, "Door-Knocking Democrat Tries to Break G.O.P. Grip in Ohio Special Election," 13 July 2018 As soon as the ball was hit, Cook dropped his head, bent at the waist, balled his fists and screamed at the ground in frustration. Tom Verducci,, "The Star That Still Won't Shine: The Incredible, Unprecedented but Unseen Greatness of Mike Trout," 12 July 2018 Whereas McHugh pounded his glove on his slow march to the dugout, Giolito jogged out for the eighth and wound up slapping his mitt in frustration. Hunter Atkins, Houston Chronicle, "Marwin Gonzalez's squeeze bunt helps Astros fend off White Sox," 9 July 2018 At least half a million students a year are placed into such courses, The Hechinger Report has found, and many of them give up in frustration, according to the advocacy organization Complete College America. Jon Marcus, star-telegram, "More high school grads than ever are going to college, but 1 in 5 will quit," 7 July 2018 Barnes alleges that her son had been attempting to reenter his classroom after being sent outside, and his teacher slammed the door — on the boy's finger — in frustration. Jessica Spitz /, NBC News, "Security footage shows assistant principal slamming Detroit boy to ground," 6 July 2018 In Game 4 of the intense Cavs-Pacers playoff series this spring, Stephenson's passion even drew a technical foul from James, who shoved Stephenson away in frustration. Clifton Brown, Indianapolis Star, "How the Pacers cut Lance Stephenson and he signed to play with LeBron James," 2 July 2018 When Milwaukee Brewers leadoff hitter Brad Miller hit a two-out single to center field, Harvey looked up toward the sky in frustration. Bobby Nightengale,, "Matt Harvey's start, Jose Peraza's slam lead Cincinnati Reds to win over Milwaukee Brewers," 1 July 2018 Hicks struck out swinging, then slammed his bat down in frustration. ... George Sipple, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers losing streak at 11 after walk-off loss to Blue Jays," 30 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frustration.' 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 frustration

circa 1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for frustration

Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for frustration

The first known use of frustration was circa 1555

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More Definitions for frustration



English Language Learners Definition of frustration

: a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something : the state of being frustrated

: something that causes feelings of anger and annoyance

: the fact of being prevented from succeeding or doing something


frus·​tra·​tion | \ˌfrə-ˈstrā-shən \

Kids Definition of frustration


frus·​tra·​tion | \(ˌ)frəs-ˈtrā-shən \

Medical Definition of frustration 

1 : a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs

2 : something that frustrates

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frus·​tra·​tion | \ˌfrəs-ˈtrā-shən \

Legal Definition of frustration 

1a : the act of frustrating

b : the state or an instance of being frustrated

c : something that frustrates

2 : a common-law doctrine of contract law: parties to a contract may be excused from performance even though performance is still possible if the reason for making the contract is partially or completely frustrated by a fortuitous event or by circumstances which are not the fault of either party

called also frustration of purpose, frustration of the venture

— compare cause sense 4, force majeure clause, impossibility, impracticability

Note: In order for frustration to be used as a successful defense to a breach of contract claim, the reason for making the contract must have been contemplated or recognized by both the contracting parties even though it was not expressed in the contract.

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Comments on frustration

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


by force of circumstances

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