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 The Pistons started slowly and remain in purgatory. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit sports are terrible. But one day, it will make winning that much sweeter," 6 Dec. 2019 Until this year, none of them had, since 2011, experienced the purgatory of being in the House minority. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: ‘Texodus’ bodes badly for Republicans," 20 Oct. 2019 Until this year, none of them had, since 2011, experienced the purgatory of being in the House minority. George Will, National Review, "‘Texodus’ Bodes Badly for Republicans," 20 Oct. 2019 Until this year, none of them had, since 2011, experienced the purgatory of being in the House minority. George F. Will, The Denver Post, "Will: “Texodus” bodes badly for Republicans," 19 Oct. 2019 That Stafford is back here in this spot, without much of a running game, without much of a defense, must feel like purgatory to him. Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions all but out of the NFC North playoff race. And it's Matt Patricia's fault," 3 Nov. 2019 Amid the celebrations, Mr. Orban was in political purgatory. Benjamin Novak, New York Times, "The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions," 3 Nov. 2019 Boris Johnson, having lost 23 Tory MPs, is living in parliamentary purgatory. The Economist, "Leaving the European Union is making Britain less British," 26 Oct. 2019 Still only 21 years old, the midfielder is lost in purgatory between reserve and senior football, and his situation doesn't look like changing any time soon. SI.com, "Barcelona: Predicting the Next Moves for 5 Unwanted First-Team Players," 20 Sep. 2019

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

9 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Purgatory.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purgatory. Accessed 13 December 2019.

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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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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).


easily led, controlled, or managed

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