ordeal

play
noun or·deal \ȯr-ˈdē(-ə)l, ˈȯr-ˌdē(-ə)l\

Definition of ordeal

  1. 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. 2 :  a severe trial or experience Being trapped in an elevator was a harrowing ordeal for the shoppers.

Examples of ordeal in a sentence

  1. the hikers were finally rescued after a three-day ordeal in the wilderness

Origin and Etymology of ordeal

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


First Known Use: before 12th century


ORDEAL Defined for English Language Learners

ordeal

play
noun or·deal \ȯr-ˈdē(-ə)l, ˈȯr-ˌdē(-ə)l\

Definition of ordeal for English Language Learners

  • : an experience that is very unpleasant or difficult


ORDEAL Defined for Kids

ordeal

play
noun or·deal \ȯr-ˈdēl\

Definition of ordeal for Students

  1. :  a severe test or experience



Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

an exhausted condition

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • peter-bruegel-tower-of-babel-painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!