trib·​u·​la·​tion | \ ˌtri-byə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce tribulation (audio) \

Definition of tribulation

: distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution also : a trying experience the trials and tribulations of starting a new business

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IT's Not Hard to Learn About Tribulation

The writer and Christian scholar Thomas More, in his 1534 work A dialoge of comforte against tribulation, defined the title word as "euery such thing as troubleth and greueth [grieveth] a man either in bodye or mynde." These days, however, the word tribulation is typically used as a plural noun, paired with its alliterative partner trial, and relates less to oppression and more to any kind of uphill struggle. Tribulation derives via Middle English and Old French from the Latin verb tribulare ("to oppress or afflict"), which is related to tribulum, a noun meaning "threshing board."

Examples of tribulation in a Sentence

Her son's illness has been a source of great tribulation. The play is about the tribulations of a family of immigrants in New York.
Recent Examples on the Web On the tribulation side, there was the death of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on April 9, just short of his 100th birthday on June 10. Maria Puente, USA TODAY, 9 June 2021 How did Baldwin, King and Little protect their children through so much tribulation? Jessica Dulong, CNN, 9 May 2021 Popovich acknowledged the challenge the Spurs face this week, while still attempting to keep their tribulation in perspective. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, 22 Feb. 2021 That can be a tribulation for anyone, let alone a 100-member legislative body that includes 26 senators who are 70 or older and five who are at least 80. Alan Fram, ajc, 27 Jan. 2021 Shortly thereafter, the imposter will lead the world through seven years of tribulation, at the end of which Jesus and the saints will return to earth and battle the forces of evil at Armageddon (a literal place in Israel). Matthew Avery Sutton, The New Republic, 14 Jan. 2021 This tribulation force goes to war against the Antichrist government, much as last week’s insurrectionists did. Matthew Avery Sutton, The New Republic, 14 Jan. 2021 The most affecting part of the book is how Mr. Kilmer writes about the tribulation of being stripped of one of the primary tools of his craft – his voice. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 June 2020 Even as his writing has increasingly focused less on his own trials and tribulations and more on those of the world around him, Isbell’s years of hard-living have added a gravitas to his music that hasn’t gone unnoticed. David Peisner, New York Times, 11 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tribulation.' 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 tribulation

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tribulation

Middle English tribulacion, from Anglo-French, from Latin tribulation-, tribulatio, from tribulare to press, oppress, from tribulum drag used in threshing, from terere to rub — more at throw entry 1

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Time Traveler for tribulation

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

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tribulation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for tribulation



English Language Learners Definition of tribulation

: unhappiness, pain, or suffering
: an experience that causes someone to suffer


trib·​u·​la·​tion | \ ˌtri-byə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce tribulation (audio) \

Kids Definition of tribulation

1 : an experience that is hard to bear He suffered many trials and tribulations.
2 : distress or suffering resulting from cruel and unjust treatment or misfortune Her son's illness has been a source of tribulation.


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