or·​deal | \ ȯr-ˈdē(-ə)l How to pronounce ordeal (audio) , ˈȯr-ˌdē(-ə)l \

Definition of ordeal

1 : a primitive means used to determine guilt or innocence by submitting the accused to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under supernatural control ordeal by fire ordeal by water
2 : a severe trial or experience Being trapped in an elevator was a harrowing ordeal for the shoppers.

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Synonyms for ordeal


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Examples of ordeal in a Sentence

the hikers were finally rescued after a three-day ordeal in the wilderness
Recent Examples on the Web The bus driver was the only adult on the bus and did nothing to intervene throughout the ordeal, despite the girl’s loud attempts to get the boys to stop assaulting her, the lawsuit alleges. oregonlive, 11 Oct. 2021 Henderson said food and water ran low throughout the ordeal. Paul P. Murphy, CNN, 7 Sep. 2021 Throughout the ordeal, other ski areas reached out to offer assistance: equipment storage, lodging for evacuated employees — anything Rice may have needed. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Aug. 2021 Porsha is uncharacteristically silent throughout the whole ordeal, knowing that Kenya has been plotting this conversation all along. Chris Murphy, Vulture, 28 Feb. 2021 Approximately a week before his injury, Adam watched the documentary of former NFL quarterback Alex Smith’s ordeal and subsequent recovery from a horrific broken leg in 2018. chicagotribune.com, 25 Sep. 2021 The family's ordeal has inspired at least 60 friends, family and colleagues to get the Covid-19 vaccine, Susan said. Holly Yan, CNN, 19 Sep. 2021 The public unveiling ended a three-year ordeal that began with the intention to honor the site’s famous past but erupted into community protests and charges of insensitivity from some in the Korean American community that surrounds the school. Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2021 LeAnn shared her family’s ordeal with a local television station. Sarah Varney, oregonlive, 16 Sep. 2021

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ordeal

Middle English ordal, from Old English ordāl; akin to Old High German urteil judgment, Old English dāl division — more at deal entry 3

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Time Traveler for ordeal

Time Traveler

The first known use of ordeal was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near ordeal



ordeal bark

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Last Updated

13 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ordeal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ordeal. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of ordeal

: an experience that is very unpleasant or difficult


or·​deal | \ ȯr-ˈdēl How to pronounce ordeal (audio) \

Kids Definition of ordeal

: a severe test or experience

More from Merriam-Webster on ordeal

Nglish: Translation of ordeal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ordeal for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ordeal


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