pain·​ful | \ ˈpān-fəl How to pronounce painful (audio) \
painfuller\ ˈpān-​fə-​lər How to pronounce painfuller (audio) \; 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 How to pronounce painfully (audio) \ adverb
painfulness \ ˈpān-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce painfulness (audio) \ 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

The unsuccessful attempt to save La Gloria, another historic dance hall, remains a painful memory for leaders of Esperanza and many others. Elaine Ayala,, "A shrine to conjunto music on San Antonio’s West Side will rise again," 13 July 2019 Harris noted Biden opposed federal measures to ensure that local jurisdictions used busing to desegregate public schools during the 1970s, saying the position was personally painful for her. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "Gabbard says Harris hatched "political ploy" to "smear" Biden on race," 8 July 2019 Human skin grafts typically require a lengthy recovery period that can be painful. Suddaf Kauser Chaudry, CNN, "Artificial skin trial offers hope to Pakistan's acid attack victims," 3 July 2019 In the end, while inverse psoriasis can be painful, there are a variety of ways to relieve your symptoms. Lambeth Hochwald,, "What is Inverse Psoriasis—and What’s the Best Way to Treat It?," 27 June 2019 Please respect the privacy of Nature’s family during his painful time. Kirsten Spruch, Billboard, "Nature Ganganbaigal, Tengger Calvary Frontman, Dies at 29," 25 June 2019 Both can be painful, but texters' thumb is temporary, while thumb arthritis can require surgery. Joshua Bote, USA TODAY, "Can you get 'horns' from smartphone use? Here are some problems our devices cause," 20 June 2019 No matter how much time has gone by, the annual holiday can still be painful. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "25 Loss of Mother Quotes to Offer Words of Comfort on Mother's Day," 30 Apr. 2019 Because FedEx’s customers expect to send and receive their packages during business hours, the sort nearly always takes place at a painful time to be awake. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "Inside FedEx’s Christmas Miracle," 19 Dec. 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

16 Jul 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 How to pronounce painful (audio) \
painfuller\ -​fə-​lər How to pronounce painfuller (audio) \; painfullest

Medical Definition of painful

: feeling or giving pain

Other Words from painful

painfully \ -​f(ə-​)lē How to pronounce painfully (audio) \ 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

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).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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