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 Another potential factor in Henry’s method of execution was a desire to avoid the drawn-out, tortuous ordeal of burning at the stake—the typical sentence for female traitors in Tudor England. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Henry VIII Orchestrated Every Detail of Anne Boleyn’s Execution," 26 Oct. 2020 Today’s care — especially for older adults — is frequently a costly, exhausting ordeal. Eric Schubert, Star Tribune, "We must reinvent long-term care — here's how," 14 Aug. 2020 According to the Telegraph's royals editor, Camilla Tominey, the ordeal—which is playing out pretty dramatically in the press—could damage their relationships with the Queen. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle's Court Case Will Reportedly "Have a Major Impact" on Prince Harry's Relationship with the Queen," 3 July 2020 Her experience, recounted in a recent interview, captures how even a mild case of covid-19 can still be a harrowing ordeal — and how the myriad unknowns of the illness leave its victims without a clear sense of closure or control. Washington Post, "A hypervigilant mom followed every health guideline. She still caught the coronavirus.," 29 June 2020 In fact, the good Maia had done was the only thing that got her through her ordeal — not the cash. Andrea Stanley, Redbook, "The Scary Truth About Donating Your Eggs," 19 Oct. 2017 Their ordeal ended sometime before dawn on New Year’s Day, when a swimmer from a Coast Guard helicopter reached them. Hal Bernton, Anchorage Daily News, "Settlement in deadly sinking of crab boat off Alaska calls for more than $9 million payout," 2 Nov. 2020 According to police, the ordeal began with a report of domestic violence about 2:30 a.m. David Hernandez, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Inside a 19-hour standoff between San Diego police and a man on a rooftop," 1 Nov. 2020 The ordeal began shortly before 1 a.m. when an East Precinct officer was stopped at a traffic light in the 9400 of Parkway East. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Gunman captured after firing on Birmingham police, shooting 2 motorists, stealing Jefferson County patrol SUV," 1 Nov. 2020

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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Last Updated

17 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

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

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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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