mis·​ery ˈmi-zə-rē How to pronounce misery (audio)
plural miseries
: a state of suffering and want that is the result of poverty or affliction
War brought misery to thousands of refugees.
: a circumstance, thing, or place that causes suffering or discomfort
the joys and miseries of life
: a state of great unhappiness and emotional distress
My former boss made my life a misery.
Choose the Right Synonym for misery

distress, suffering, misery, agony mean the state of being in great trouble.

distress implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress.

the hurricane put everyone in great distress

suffering implies conscious endurance of pain or distress.

the suffering of famine victims

misery stresses the unhappiness attending especially sickness, poverty, or loss.

the homeless live with misery every day

agony suggests pain too intense to be borne.

in agony over the death of their child

Examples of misery in a Sentence

The war brought misery to thousands of refugees. They were living in overcrowded slums in conditions of great misery. a source of human misery the joy and misery of life The last years of her life were a misery. Stop being such a misery. See More
Recent Examples on the Web At times, the series implies that curses and magic are real, and at others seems convinced that everyone’s misery comes from their own choices and actions. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 6 Nov. 2023 While contemporary audiences may be more willing to believe that Elvis could have been a cruel husband, Coppola challenges them not just to pity his poor wife, imprisoned by luxury, but to empathize with her gradual recognition of her misery. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, 5 Nov. 2023 Supporters of the project, among them housing advocates, some church leaders, and officials from the state and BMC, argue that lives hang in the balance and that any delay in building the facility will lead to more misery for some of Boston’s most vulnerable. Mike Damiano, BostonGlobe.com, 16 Sep. 2023 The past week in Israel and the Palestinian territories has been horrific, and the next few weeks promise only more misery and pain. Andrew Exum, The Atlantic, 18 Oct. 2023 Balancing a fog of symptoms, including sniffles and congestion, on top of their heavy workload was a recipe for misery. Katie Liu, Discover Magazine, 16 Oct. 2023 Beyond that, there’s good national security justification for cutting carbon emissions (Not to mention the imperative to help avert untold human misery around the world and potential civilization-level catastrophe). TIME, 12 Oct. 2023 The 26-9 defeat brought Olave more misery than Allen encounters across several games. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Oct. 2023 And the final objective is to accomplish all this without bringing more death and misery to noncombatants caught in a world once again on fire. David E. Sanger, New York Times, 19 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near misery

Cite this Entry

“Misery.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/misery. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


mis·​ery ˈmiz-(ə-)rē How to pronounce misery (audio)
plural miseries
: a state of great suffering and want due to poverty or misfortune
: a source of misery
: a state of unhappiness

More from Merriam-Webster on misery

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