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

Definition of painful 

1a : feeling or giving pain a painful injury

b : irksome, annoying

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

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

If your burn seems to be getting worse or more painful, see your doctor. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "A Visual Guide to Identifying First-, Second- and Third-Degree Burns," 6 Aug. 2018 Same thing here: Flossing once a day can save you from painful (and expensive) cavities and gum disease. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "QUIZ: How Normal Are Your Hygiene Habits?," 25 July 2018 While some find the child abuse claim helpful in solving the mystery that was Whitney Houston, others, like her mother Cissy and Dee Dee’s sister Dionne Warwick, find the allegations in the film painful, exploitative and hard to believe. Janine Rubenstein,, "Whitney Houston's Mother Expresses 'Horror' Over Claims Singer Was Molested by Dee Dee Warwick," 11 July 2018 Interstitial cystitis, or IC, is a mysterious, painful bladder condition with no known cause or cure. Simone Gorrindo, The Cut, "Living With a Disease That Feels Like a Never-ending UTI," 3 July 2018 The answer is likely to be painful, one way or the other. Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, "As hope of perfect outcome fades, Spurs face a choice," 2 July 2018 Though the topic of the dismissal is still painful, Cristina is unwilling to speak ill of Jara or La Taqueria. Jonathan Kauffman,, "La Taqueria workers’ risky complaints over unpaid overtime, health care bring reforms," 30 June 2018 This painful condition commonly occurs with age or injuries that damage cartilage. Bradley J. Fikes,, "Seeking financial security, Scripps Research is taking its science directly to patients," 24 June 2018 For Microsoft, the following decade was a painful, distracting, and expensive era as the company fought anti-trust litigation in the U.S. and Europe. Jonas Kron, Fortune, "Microsoft Does These 2 Things to Stay out of Trouble. Facebook Should Try Them," 8 June 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

19 Nov 2018

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

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More Definitions for painful



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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Comments on painful

What made you want to look up painful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

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