or·​deal | \ ȯr-ˈdē(-ə)l How to pronounce ordeal (audio) , ˈȯr-ˌdē(-ə)l \

Definition of ordeal

1 : a primitive means used to determine guilt or innocence by submitting the accused to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under supernatural control ordeal by fire ordeal by water
2 : a severe trial or experience Being trapped in an elevator was a harrowing ordeal for the shoppers.

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Synonyms for ordeal


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Examples of ordeal in a Sentence

the hikers were finally rescued after a three-day ordeal in the wilderness
Recent Examples on the Web Elle and her fiance would have preferred to skip this whole ordeal altogether and just get married at the courthouse. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Pared down wedding invites exclude disabled sister’s husband," 12 Jan. 2021 Elle and her fiance would have preferred to skip this whole ordeal altogether and just get married at the courthouse. cleveland, "Dear Annie: My daughter doesn’t want to invite her brother-in-law to her wedding," 12 Jan. 2021 To spare the child from the ordeal, the family agreed to let Connick’s office drop the charges. David A. Hammer, NOLA.com, "Monster in Our Midst: A timeline of George Brignac's abuse in New Orleans-area churches," 16 Dec. 2020 Swift has made her feelings about Braun very clear during this whole masters ordeal, and this may just be one more sign. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Taylor Swift Fans Think There’s a Scooter Braun Diss in a New Ad Featuring ‘Love Story’ 2.0," 3 Dec. 2020 Wouldn’t a newfound commitment to protecting human life be something healthy to come from this COVID-19 ordeal? Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, "A Revolution in Care for Our Elderly," 30 Nov. 2020 The only one uninspired was Ethel, herself – who appears to have emerged from the ordeal completely unshaken. Steve Hartman, CBS News, "Woman watching pig livestream jumps into action after barn catches fire," 13 Nov. 2020 This ordeal needs to bring the country together, not divide it still further. Star Tribune, "Trump's illness should unite the country in fighting coronavirus," 7 Oct. 2020 DeSaulnier is still working through physical and emotional effects from the ordeal. Tal Kopan, SFChronicle.com, "Back from brink of death, Mark DeSaulnier is ready to work and run again," 27 Sep. 2020

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ordeal

Middle English ordal, from Old English ordāl; akin to Old High German urteil judgment, Old English dāl division — more at deal entry 3

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Time Traveler for ordeal

Time Traveler

The first known use of ordeal was before the 12th century

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Statistics for ordeal

Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ordeal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ordeal. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for ordeal


How to pronounce ordeal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ordeal

: an experience that is very unpleasant or difficult


or·​deal | \ ȯr-ˈdēl How to pronounce ordeal (audio) \

Kids Definition of ordeal

: a severe test or experience

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Comments on ordeal

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