SKIP TO CONTENT

ordeal

An ordeal is something difficult or painful to go through. Something kind of hard like taking a test can be an ordeal, but often an ordeal is a serious and long-lasting event, like an illness or tragedy.

When you go through an ordeal you have to deal with something tough. Waiting for someone you love to recover from an injury and come home from the hospital is an ordeal––for both of you––and being a victim of a crime is a different kind of ordeal. You can use this noun in an exaggerated way, too, as when you endure the long ordeal of cleaning the garage on a sunny weekend.

Definitions of ordeal
  1. noun
    a severe or trying experience
    synonyms: gauntlet
    see moresee less
    type of:
    experience
    an event as apprehended
  2. noun
    a primitive method of determining a person's guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under divine control; escape was usually taken as a sign of innocence
    synonyms: trial by ordeal
    see moresee less
    type of:
    trial
    (law) the determination of a person's innocence or guilt by due process of law
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

ACT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week