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.

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 In addition to dealing with the whole ordeal, Khloé Kardashian felt stressed about the news of their second child going public. Erin Jensen, USA TODAY, 23 Sep. 2022 The ordeal shut down the highway for about an hour. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, 23 Sep. 2022 Two years into the ordeal, at a hilltop park overlooking San Diego, Mays sat with a military bearing, speaking with a newly reflective self-awareness. Megan Rose, ProPublica, 23 Sep. 2022 In 2013, while multiple cases in the real-life ordeal were still being investigated, the Sofia Coppola film The Bling Ring premiered at Cannes. Calie Schepp, EW.com, 21 Sep. 2022 Joyce, who was a chemistry major at the time of the arrest, said the ordeal rerouted her life completely. Kimmy Yam, NBC News, 20 Sep. 2022 The ordeal highlights the long-running and widespread problem of bad behavior from parents during youth sporting events. Julian Mark, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2022 Five years after the duplexes were shut down, Oliver was found guilty of more than 60 counts related to the ordeal. Henri Hollis, ajc, 14 Sep. 2022 The ordeal started about four weeks ago when Nolan was outside playing catch in the yard with his dad when he was stung in the back of the head by a yellow jacket. Pam Mcloughlin, Hartford Courant, 14 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near ordeal



ordeal bark

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Last Updated

1 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ordeal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ordeal. Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for ordeal


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

Kids Definition of ordeal

: a severe test or experience

More from Merriam-Webster on ordeal

Nglish: Translation of ordeal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ordeal for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ordeal


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