pur·​ga·​to·​ry | \ˈpər-gə-ˌtȯr-ē \
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

The court cannot keep Palestinians in the purgatory of a preliminary examination forever. Mark Kersten, Washington Post, "Can the International Criminal Court investigate the violence in Gaza?," 17 May 2018 At last, though, the awkward transition period of purgatory is over. Avi Creditor, SI.com, "USMNT Closes Camp, Awkward Period With Nice Lasting Impression vs. France," 9 June 2018 Wochit Arizona cities are in sober living home purgatory. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "Waiting for state sober living home rules, cities add their own restrictions," 7 July 2018 Music and the clan of women who keep them at arm’s length are their sole salvation, their way of escaping their purgatory and their path to transcendence. Greg Kot, chicagotribune.com, "Neil Young on tech giants ('jerks'), audio quality ('bad') and his new movie with Darryl Hannah," 14 Mar. 2018 Over the past decade IndyCar was in broadcasting purgatory, partnered with both ABC and NBC. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "IndyCar midseason review, Part I: What’s gone right," 14 June 2018 At the same time, there was a definite sadness about this Cavs team, and James in particular, who was stuck in purgatory for an entire season. Rohan Nadkarni, SI.com, "Ranking LeBron James’s Top-Five Reasons For Leaving Cleveland," 10 June 2018 But the Cavs had the highest payroll in the league in 2017-18 and owner Dan Gilbert is in repeater tax purgatory for years of exceeding the salary cap. Tribune News Service, OregonLive.com, "LeBron James' free agency decision: Family priorities, 'championship mode' could collide," 9 June 2018 And as his team was stuck in purgatory, the ledger hasn't looked so great lately. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Did Detroit Red Wings help or hurt rebuild with veteran signings?," 8 July 2018

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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Statistics for purgatory

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for purgatory

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

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English Language Learners Definition of purgatory

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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Comments on purgatory

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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