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 Tanner claimed that since the ordeal, the couple has received death threats, according to Tanner's interview with ESPN. Kaitlin Reilly, refinery29.com, "The Bachelor‘s Jade Roper Tolbert Faces Cheating Accusations After Winning $1 Million USD In Fantasy Football," 7 Jan. 2020 During the 130-mile ordeal, Kirby took methamphetamine, pistol-whipped the victim and continually threatened him, according to the arrest report. USA TODAY, "Butter Gritty, radish stink, goatnapping: News from around our 50 states," 3 Jan. 2020 During the 130-mile ordeal, Kirby took methamphetamine, pistol-whipped the victim and continually threatened him, according to the arrest report. Washington Post, "Police: Man and goat taken on terrifying three-state drive," 2 Jan. 2020 The nation is going through a similar ordeal, of course, wondering how a system of rules, our Constitution, can address bad actions that puncture the closed world of government—that cry out for some sort of outside intervention. Noam Cohen, Wired, "The TV Show ‘Survivor’ Can Help Us Understand Impeachment," 17 Dec. 2019 The aim is to see how humans hold up to the ordeal. Angus Whitley, Los Angeles Times, "Human guinea pigs prepare for the world’s longest direct flight: 20 hours," 15 Oct. 2019 The ordeal started about 11:30 p.m. Thursday, when officers responded to a call asking police to check on 78 Morse Ave. Christine Dempsey, courant.com, "Barricaded woman arrested in Groton, police say," 11 Oct. 2019 The ordeal would take a lot out of both her and her husband, not only through Beth's pregnancy but after the baby was born. Terry Demio, Cincinnati.com, "Woman with cancer while pregnant says she fought like Fiona and won," 18 Dec. 2019 Church attendees can be heard on the video shouting in terror at the ordeal. Rebecca Hennes, Houston Chronicle, "Screwdriver-wielding man could face charges after allegedly threatening officers in Pasadena church," 13 Dec. 2019

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

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ordeal.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ordeal. Accessed 24 January 2020.

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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

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


a feeling of well-being or elation

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