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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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 Kader has thus traded one terrifying limbo for another: Imprisoned in Libya, he and two others are now trapped in legal purgatory in Malta. Kenneth R. Rosen, The New Republic, 26 Apr. 2022 Now, with criminal charges off the table for Uber, Vasquez sat in legal purgatory alone. Lauren Smiley, Wired, 8 Mar. 2022 In a sense, deleting iPhone photos sends them to a purgatory-like state for a month before permanent deletion. Yoni Heisler, BGR, 28 Apr. 2022 Consider purgatory for the front office executives who acquired Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the other elder-Lakers before this season. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, 25 Apr. 2022 For Cohen, though, the place was not paradise but purgatory. Washington Post, 15 Apr. 2022 Deverell recalls the initial idea featured cautionary scenes depicting heaven, purgatory and eventually hell. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2022 Kaelego seems like a cosmic being, not a satanic demon, so this doesn’t seem to be a story of heaven, hell or purgatory, but of alternate dimensions. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 18 Jan. 2022 There is, however, a person trying to salvage a life interrupted, trying to return to life after a decade in purgatory, thanks to a legal system that still won’t concede it’s done anything wrong. Hannah Murphy Winter, Rolling Stone, 1 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Dictionary Entries Near purgatory



purgatory hammer

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Purgatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purgatory. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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