Definition of tragedy in English:



  • 1An event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

    ‘a tragedy that killed 95 people’
    [mass noun] ‘his life had been plagued by tragedy’
    • ‘Any road accident that causes a death or serious injury is a tragedy.’
    • ‘The government and the media have attempted to portray the tragedy as a natural disaster.’
    • ‘The patients to undergo this new medical procedure have been seriously disfigured by burns, serious accidents or personal tragedies.’
    • ‘Pastors' presence as community leaders is most evident after collective tragedies such as fatal accidents and violent crimes.’
    • ‘Each death is a tragedy with devastating life changing effects on the families of the children killed.’
    • ‘Random accidents and everyday tragedies become just another ratings-boosting gimmick, filling airtime before the next disaster strikes.’
    • ‘You understand, sort of, when people die of natural tragedies, whether it's fires or tornadoes or hurricanes or whatever.’
    • ‘But unfortunately there is the bad news as well, the tragedies, accidents and the deaths.’
    • ‘Some accidental deaths are not tragedies, it turns out.’
    • ‘She is determined to help improve health care in developing nations, to prevent tragedies like her natural mother's early death.’
    • ‘And the deaths flowing from natural tragedies such as this seem very arbitrary, unfair and unacceptable.’
    • ‘The narrator's diaries record her friend's distress, and the tragedies that result.’
    • ‘The official outcome of the investigation was that the tragedy was an accident - pure and simple.’
    • ‘The tragedies caused by accident, human error and carelessness have become the most significant in the early history of the region.’
    • ‘But road safety campaigners say the figures hide the human tragedy behind each accident.’
    • ‘The show is a catalogue of accidents, deaths and tragedies.’
    • ‘The floods which swept through Mozambique were a natural tragedy which could not have been prevented.’
    • ‘These frightening statistics speak for themselves and behind these figures there lie terrible human tragedies and unimaginable suffering.’
    • ‘Terrible human tragedies and unimaginable suffering result from fatal accidents in farming each year.’
    • ‘In reality, we all know of baddies in this world for who everything seems to go perfectly for, while on the other hand we know of very good people who suffer several setbacks and tragedies in life.’
    disaster, calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm, devastation, misfortune, misadventure, mishap, reverse, vicissitude, setback, trial, tribulation, affliction, blight, injury, adversity, sad event, serious accident
    View synonyms
  • 2A play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the downfall of the main character.

    ‘Shakespeare's tragedies’
    • ‘is a question that the drama puts with a boldness and clarity few other Shakespeare tragedies bring to their ethical or moral concerns.’
    • ‘He saw comedies, tragedies, dramas, shows of acrobatics and clowning, all accompanied by fine music, and all this performed by a family of only twenty members.’
    • ‘One example is the accompanying contemporary, or pop music, with Greek tragedies or Shakespearean plays.’
    • ‘Did all the gory deaths he witnessed while serving in the Canadian ambulance corps in the Second World War help him play tragedies?’
    • ‘Then again, it's a theme of war films to make tragedies all the more tragic, isn't it?’
    • ‘Between 1776 and 1794, Cowley produced ten comedies, two tragedies, a farce, and many poems.’
    • ‘This turns the play into a gripping tragedy and a moving tale of human frailty.’
    • ‘Comedies, tragedies, musicals and dramas make this a remarkably diverse theater season.’
    • ‘The characters in the tragedies of Sophocles resist all warnings and inescapably meet with disaster.’
    • ‘In Racine's tragedies, confusion often reigns, and from it a tragic reversal takes place.’
    • ‘Let's be honest here, Shakespeare's tragedies are filled with dialogue, monologue, and soliloquy.’
    • ‘Three utterly madcap men in tights and sneakers take the theatre by storm as they gallop through the tragedies, histories and comedies at a speed that will leave you gasping.’
    • ‘The Play of King Lear is a great tragic play that many tragedies try to compare to.’
    • ‘Three of these plays were usually tragedies, plays that focused on a heroic character who falls due to his own folly.’
    • ‘By a series of unfortunate circumstances, the tragedy of Othello the Moor, was turned into The Moor The Merrier.’
    • ‘Shakespeare wrote tragedies, romance, history, comedy and problem plays all with great success.’
    • ‘This last and driest of Shakespeare's tragedies is, in some ways, his most unusual.’
    • ‘Seneca produced his own versions of tragedies by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus.’
    tragic drama, drama, play
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1[mass noun]The dramatic genre represented by tragedies.
      ‘Greek tragedy’
      Compare with comedy
      • ‘The bedroom scenes were disturbing and memorable, more tragedy then comedy.’
      • ‘That purging of emotions that drama, especially tragedy, is supposed to inspire.’
      • ‘In other words, shifting the format from theatrical tragedy to televisual sitcom.’
      • ‘The Cheltenham Festival witnessed an opening day of drama laced with tragedy.’
      • ‘However, what is there in linguistic gravity, romance and tragedy is slightly lacking in subtlety.’
      • ‘This may not be French classical tragedy as we normally understand it.’
      • ‘In the various sessions, it ran up and down the scales from high drama to epic tragedy, from broad comedy to poignant romance.’
      • ‘There are two uses of the Shakespearean concept of tragedy that could be drawn on.’
      • ‘But, even if the result is stylised tragedy, the three principals perform with great skill.’
      • ‘The representatives of tragedy and comedy chosen are not Greek but Roman.’
      • ‘Emblem books and tragedy can be considered as the two literary genres in which this twofold image of death is best exemplified.’
      • ‘You could accuse him of hitching a lift on the back of Greek tragedy.’
      • ‘To transcend the bounds of tragedy is credit to both writer and performer.’
      • ‘That said, it is still an enjoyable evening - both comedy and tragedy certainly have their moments.’
      • ‘I love politics, too, with its human dramas worthy of Greek tragedy, or at least soap opera.’
      • ‘No one, I confidently told an academic friend this week, writes tragedy any more.’


Late Middle English: from Old French tragedie, via Latin from Greek tragōidia, apparently from tragos goat (the reason remains unexplained) + ōidē song, ode. Compare with tragic.