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

The ticket ordeal started off innocently enough last week. BostonGlobe.com, "Stephen King-related," 17 Sep. 2019 Lord Arthur was subpoenaed to testify but committed suicide, allegedly, before submitting to this ordeal (his family claimed scarlet fever). Joey Nolfi, EW.com, "See RuPaul, Bianca Del Rio, more in exclusive excerpts from Drag: The Complete Story book," 16 Sep. 2019 Although the approach of starting with Marie's ordeal is harrowing and effective, the move to Karen and Grace's narrative is awkward at best. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Review: Netflix's 'Unbelievable' is a harrowing true crime must-watch," 13 Sep. 2019 In 1971, a four-day inmates' rebellion at the Attica Correctional Facility in western New York ended as police and guards stormed the prison; the ordeal and final assault claimed the lives of 32 inmates and 11 hostages. orlandosentinel.com, "Today in history: September 13," 13 Sep. 2019 The whole ordeal points to the text as either having been written in an undiscovered language or in one language, then transformed through a code. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "The Truly Baffling Case of the Ancient Voynich Manuscript," 12 Sep. 2019 Its ordeal finally over, the moose then stands up and runs away. Fox News, "Cops use Tasers to incapacitate and free moose tangled in a hammock," 11 Sep. 2019 Doss’ ordeal has been the feel-weird hit of the summer. Gary Peterson, The Mercury News, "A few authentic storylines to know about Keelan Doss before his Raiders debut," 9 Sep. 2019 Gordon's is the second nonfiction feature focused on Goodes' ordeal this year, following Ian Darling's archival footage assembly, The Final Quarter. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Australian Dream': Film Review | Telluride 2019," 30 Aug. 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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Dictionary Entries near ordeal





ordeal bark

ordeal bean

ordeal tree

Statistics for ordeal

Last Updated

21 Sep 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).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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