Definition of ordeal in English:

ordeal

noun

  • 1A very unpleasant and prolonged experience.

    ‘the ordeal of having to give evidence’
    • ‘Clients will have the chance to speak to others who have suffered similar ordeals.’
    • ‘The boy, who was conscious throughout the ordeal, suffered fractures to his left leg and a broken nose.’
    • ‘Most were more than willing to talk about the ordeal of the last few days.’
    • ‘She believes young pupils should not have to go through the ordeal of a formal examination.’
    • ‘Staff morale must be sapped by the ordeal of coping with crisis conditions day after day.’
    • ‘As if the ordeal of a trial were not bad enough, he and Dolores must now face an arguably worse fate.’
    • ‘The judge gave him credit for pleading guilty which spared the girl the ordeal of attending court.’
    • ‘No one experienced the ordeal of those first few years more acutely than his first wife, Linda.’
    • ‘The alternative would have been to put their children through the ordeal of a possible court case.’
    • ‘The ordeal of being mugged is scary enough without being left to feel as though you're on your own and helpless.’
    • ‘Support from other abuse victims and the police had helped her to cope with the ordeal of the trial, she said.’
    • ‘At least the ordeal of yet another defeat was over sooner than expected.’
    • ‘But she said Dr Williams remained in good spirits despite the ordeal of the hearing.’
    • ‘As a consequence he forced the families through the ordeal of the trial.’
    • ‘During the trial the McNeils put their victims through the ordeal of giving evidence.’
    • ‘Throughout the ordeal of recent months, Darius has clearly drawn strength from his family.’
    • ‘All but the most ardent rodent fanciers would consider this a highly unpleasant ordeal.’
    • ‘The ordeal of the bereaved families is a sobering reminder to ministers.’
    • ‘The ordeal of one of the families, the Pancars from Turkey, began seven years before.’
    • ‘This is the voice of Eamon's sister who dared to speak about the ordeal of her younger brother.’
    painful experience, unpleasant experience, trial, tribulation, test, nightmare, trauma, baptism of fire, hell, hell on earth, misery, trouble, difficulty, torture, torment, agony
    View synonyms
  • 2historical An ancient test of guilt or innocence by subjection of the accused to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof of innocence.

    ‘ordeals conducted in the twelfth century’
    mass noun ‘ordeal by fire’
    • ‘If he still maintained his innocence, he was able to decide between two ordeals: water or iron.’
    • ‘As a result, ordeals were replaced by trials by juries.’
    • ‘Those presented might then be put to the ordeal to ascertain their guilt or innocence.’

Origin

Old English ordāl, ordēl, of Germanic origin; related to German urteilen ‘give judgement’, from a base meaning ‘share out’. The word is not found in Middle English (except once in Chaucer's Troilus); modern use of ordeal (sense 2) began in the late 16th century, whence ordeal (sense 1) (mid 17th century).

Pronunciation

ordeal

/ɔːˈdiːəl/