pain·​ful | \ ˈpān-fəl \
painfuller\ ˈpān-​fə-​lər \; painfullest

Definition of painful

1a : feeling or giving pain a painful injury
2 : requiring effort or exertion a long painful trip
3 archaic : careful, diligent

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Other Words from painful

painfully \ ˈpān-​f(ə-​)lē \ adverb
painfulness \ ˈpān-​fəl-​nəs \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for painful


aching, achy, afflictive, hurting, nasty, sore


indolent, painless

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Examples of painful in a Sentence

I got a painful sunburn. We can't ignore our country's painful history of slavery. His questions brought up a lot of painful memories. It was painful to watch.
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Recent Examples on the Web

People often describe these sensations as unusual pressure, soreness, or tightness though, rather than a painful, chest-clutching moment like the one mentioned above. Amy Capetta, Redbook, "6 Subtle Signs of a Heart Attack in Women," 25 July 2018 The Marlins’ right-hander allowed hits to the first three Padres hitters, but the second one was the most painful. Matthew Defranks,, "Marlins come back, but fall late in loss to Padres," 9 June 2018 Walking for even five minutes is painful and tiring for Fardowsa Sharif. Emma Austin, The Courier-Journal, "Kenyan JCPS student won't let health issues stop her from graduating," 31 May 2018 Few things are quite as painful to look at as grout that's chipping away around your otherwise perfect tiles. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "How To Fix Tile Grout," 15 Jan. 2019 Virtually all new laptops include this, but the 2018 Swift 7 forced users to tap the pad instead, and that experience was just plain painful. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Acer's new Swift 7 ultra-thin PC is even smaller, but adds Thunderbolt, Amber Lake and a clickpad," 6 Jan. 2019 The costs are painful but the delays are even worse. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "USAF's Next-Gen GPS Satellites Will Be a Huge Upgrade...Eventually," 26 Dec. 2018 Yet people have found an opportunity to belittle, as opposed to understanding how painful those kinds of recollections are. Olivia Fleming, Harper's BAZAAR, "Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher Open Up About Confronting Jeff Flake in the Elevator," 29 Oct. 2018 As an Asian American, this look inside the Harvard admission system has been painful to witness. Michael Li, Vox, "I support affirmative action. But Harvard really is hurting Asian Americans.," 18 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'painful.' 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 painful

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Statistics for painful

Last Updated

12 Feb 2019

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The first known use of painful was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of painful

: causing pain to your body
: causing emotional pain


pain·​ful | \ ˈpān-fəl \
painfuller\ -​fə-​lər \; painfullest

Medical Definition of painful

: feeling or giving pain

Other Words from painful

painfully \ -​f(ə-​)lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on painful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with painful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for painful

Spanish Central: Translation of painful

Nglish: Translation of painful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of painful for Arabic Speakers

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