trag·​e·​dy ˈtra-jə-dē How to pronounce tragedy (audio)
plural tragedies
: a disastrous event : calamity
: a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror
: the literary genre of tragic dramas
: a medieval narrative poem or tale typically describing the downfall of a great man
: tragic quality or element

Examples of tragedy in a Sentence

Her son's death was a terrible tragedy. The situation ended in tragedy when the gunman shot and killed two students. The biggest tragedy here is that the accident could have easily been prevented. “Hamlet” is one of Shakespeare's best-known tragedies. The students are studying Greek tragedy. an actor who is drawn to tragedy See More
Recent Examples on the Web The Deer Hunter is a film about friendship, about the ability to survive, about what Shakespeare called the pangs of unfulfilled love, and about how a great country manages to reconcile with itself after a tragedy. Antonio Monda, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Feb. 2024 Strewn confetti and overturned barricades were visual reminders of the deadly tragedy that unfolded Wednesday afternoon. Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2024 While achieving immense fame in the wrestling industry, the Von Erich family faced a series of tragedies depicted in the film. Monica Mercuri, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 Croft called the shooting a horrible tragedy and his focus at the current time was on the victims and others affected. Kacen Bayless, Kansas City Star, 15 Feb. 2024 Her former mother-in-law alleged the family had repeatedly attempted to get help from both law enforcement and child protective services to help avert a tragedy such as the one that unfolded this week. Christina Maxouris, CNN, 14 Feb. 2024 Prosecutors allege that Gutierrez-Reed eventually loaded a live round into the gun that Baldwin discharged during the October 2021 rehearsal, killing Hutchins, and that the tragedy was a consequence of lax oversight of ammunition. Morgan Lee, Twin Cities, 13 Feb. 2024 Anderson takes proceedings seriously, but even as matters tilt toward tragedy — the losses of the past reflected in the present — the film doesn’t accrue much power. Guy Lodge, Variety, 3 Feb. 2024 Shakespeare’s tragedy is rearranged in a way that rebuffs careful inspection. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tragedy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English tragedie, from Middle French, from Latin tragoedia, from Greek tragōidia, from tragos goat (akin to Greek trōgein to gnaw) + aeidein to sing — more at troglodyte, ode

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2c

Time Traveler
The first known use of tragedy was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near tragedy

Cite this Entry

“Tragedy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


trag·​e·​dy ˈtraj-əd-ē How to pronounce tragedy (audio)
plural tragedies
: a serious drama with a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion
: a disastrous event

Middle English tragedie "tragedy as a drama," from early French tragedie (same meaning), from Latin tragoedia (same meaning), from Greek tragōidia "a drama about the misfortunes of heroes," literally "goat song," from tragos "goat" and aeidein "to sing"

Word Origin
Tragedy as a form of drama began in ancient Greece. It developed from the public performances of songs and dances at religious festivals. These festivals were held in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. The Greeks called these performances tragōidia, which meant literally "goat song." The word came from tragos, meaning "goat" and aeidein, meaning "to sing." These performances were at first given by a chorus. Later, however, it became popular to have one member of the chorus stand apart from the others and give a spoken introduction to or interpretation of the story. This speaker soon took over a larger and larger role in the performances. In time, this person was joined by more speakers until the dramas came to be like our modern plays with many parts acted out. It is not certain why these performances were named with a word for "goat." One explanation is that a goat was given as a prize to the person presenting the best drama. Another is that the goat was sacred to the god Dionysus and was sacrificed to him at these festivals. The early tragedies were stories of the misfortunes of heroes of legend or history, and that idea of misfortune carries on today in the common meaning of our word tragedy.

More from Merriam-Webster on tragedy

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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