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


cross, crucible, fire, gauntlet (also gantlet), trial

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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

No longer a stultifying ordeal full of fouls and free throws (followed by stalling to protect a lead), the game took on speed and flair. David M. Shribman, WSJ, "‘The Last Pass’ Book Review: Passing Acquaintances," 16 Nov. 2018 Having lived through a similar ordeal, Reygadas had a message for the boys. NBC News, "Thai soccer team receives advices from freed Chilean miner," 4 July 2018 The team was releasing him in the wake of a career-ending neck injury discovered after the season, bringing closure to a five-month ordeal that wasn’t always comfortable for anyone involved. Albert Breer, SI.com, "A Spectator in Minicamp Week: Eric Wood on Retirement," 14 June 2018 Located two hours from the nearest hospitals in Eilat or Beersheva, childbirth for women living in the Central Arava's seven communities was a fearful ordeal. Erika Sallen, Jewish Journal, "The Negev offers better resources for expectant mothers and families," 6 June 2018 Even the chicken wings here are a haute ordeal, deboned and stuffed with a chicken mousseline given a Southeast Asian flavor with Thai chilies, herbs and lime. Craig Laban, Philly.com, "At Cadence, bold new culinary talents cook with the seasons," 1 June 2018 Despite this good news, Facebook still faces a third ordeal in the form of legal fallout from the Cambridge Analytica affair—which saw a rogue polling agency siphon and sell data from at least 87 million users. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Facebook Has Been Hit By Dozens of Data Lawsuits. And This Could Be Just the Beginning," 30 Apr. 2018 The boy would be subjected to a five-month ordeal that famously included the severing of his right ear, which his kidnappers packaged and mailed to an Italian newspaper. Mark Rozzo, Vanities, "The Virtually Unknown Saga of Gisela Getty and Jutta Winkelmann, It Girls on a Bumpy Ride," 30 Apr. 2018 Overcoming a crushingly bizarre ordeal around her last album, the leader of the mystifying Bay Area post-punk band taps into the supernatural. Chris Payne, Billboard, "Living Life After Death With Wax Idols' Hether Fortune: Interview & 'Too Late' Song Premiere," 26 Apr. 2018

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

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Dictionary Entries near ordeal





ordeal bark

ordeal bean

ordeal tree

Statistics for ordeal

Last Updated

9 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for ordeal

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on ordeal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ordeal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ordeal

Spanish Central: Translation of ordeal

Nglish: Translation of ordeal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ordeal for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ordeal

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 shady place in a garden or forest

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