pur·​ga·​to·​ry | \ ˈpər-gə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce purgatory (audio) \
plural purgatories

Definition of purgatory

1 : an intermediate state after death for expiatory purification specifically : a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God's grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven
2 : a place or state of temporary suffering or misery

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Did You Know?

Purgatory is the place where the soul is cleansed of all impurities, as Dante described in his great poem The Divine Comedy. Today purgatory can refer to any place or situation in which suffering and misery are felt to be sharp but temporary. Waiting to hear the results of a test, or whether you got a good job, can be a purgatory. And an endless after-dinner speech can make an entire roomful of people feel as if they're in purgatory.

Examples of purgatory in a Sentence

the purgatory of drug abuse The marathons were jokingly referred to as one-day purgatories.
Recent Examples on the Web Related Coverage The delay until next week will place Mr. Trump’s fate in an unusual procedural purgatory. Andrew Duehren, WSJ, "Senators Reject Witnesses in Trump Impeachment Trial," 1 Feb. 2020 An encouraging pop song can be eternally useful in an everyday purgatory like that. Chris Richards, Washington Post, "Lizzo is everything. Is that enough?," 23 Jan. 2020 Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg takes the debate stage tonight in Los Angeles in an enviable position after his campaign returned from polling purgatory to settle within striking distance of the front-runners. Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star, "Front-runners are targeting Pete Buttigieg ahead of the December Democratic debate," 19 Dec. 2019 Hurd did the heavy lifting on the bridge, developing a series of what-if questions, topped by a jilted lover’s purgatory: What if this lasts forever and ever and ever? Tom Roland, Billboard, "Makin' Tracks: Lady Antebellum Recaptures a Vintage Sound with 'What If I Never Get Over You'," 10 July 2019 Many influencers report feeling in a state of purgatory. Taylor Lorenz, New York Times, "Coronavirus Is Causing Chaos for Travel Influencers," 13 Mar. 2020 The multiple-notebook person lives in a kind of organizational purgatory. Anna Russell, The New Yorker, "Can Bullet Journaling Save You?," 7 Sep. 2019 So right now, Fitbit is in a weird acquisition purgatory. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Despite looming Google acquisition, Fitbit launches Charge 4 tracker," 31 Mar. 2020 In a matter of weeks, chemistry professor Xinfang Xu and his family went from sight-seeing on South Padre Island to languishing in a tourists’ purgatory. Randy Diamond, ExpressNews.com, "Coronavirus strands Chinese professor and family in San Antonio," 7 Feb. 2020

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for purgatory

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Medieval Latin; Anglo-French purgatorie, from Medieval Latin purgatorium, from Late Latin, neuter of purgatorius purging, from Latin purgare

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Time Traveler for purgatory

Time Traveler

The first known use of purgatory was in the 13th century

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Statistics for purgatory

Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Purgatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purgatory. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for purgatory


How to pronounce purgatory (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of purgatory

: a state after death according to Roman Catholic belief in which the souls of people who die are made pure through suffering before going to heaven
: a place or state of suffering

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