purgatory

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

One-eyed purgatory: For safety’s sake, cataract surgeons usually operate on one eye at a time, waiting a few weeks before doing the second eye to make sure the first one is back to normal. Daniel Akst, WSJ, "What Doctors Don’t Tell You About Cataract Surgery," 16 Nov. 2018 This purgatory was on full display against Brazil—in 2014, too. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Mexico’s World Cup Ends in Round of 16," 2 July 2018 February was a purgatory of waiting and tiny victories. Lindsey Vehlewald, SELF, "We Never Got Flu Shots. Then the Flu Almost Killed My Husband," 9 Nov. 2018 The Walking Dead has become a never-ending purgatory — both for its characters and its fans. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "The Walking Dead has condemned itself for all time," 5 Nov. 2018 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about purgatory

Statistics for purgatory

Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for purgatory

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for purgatory

purgatory

noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on purgatory

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with purgatory

Spanish Central: Translation of purgatory

Nglish: Translation of purgatory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of purgatory for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about purgatory

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

a complex dispute or argument

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!