Definition of agony in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈaɡəni/

noun (plural agonies)

[mass noun]
1Extreme physical or mental suffering: he crashed to the ground in agony
More example sentences
  • What sort of world is this that predisposes roughly 20 percent of human beings to suffer mental agonies?
  • Grams argues that all social layers share in life's abundance of physical and mental agonies.
  • Very many others suffered those same physical agonies.
pain, hurt, suffering, torture, torment, anguish, affliction, trauma;
misery, distress, grief, woe, wretchedness, heartbreak, heartache;
pangs, throes
rare excruciation
1.1The final stages of a difficult or painful death: his last agony
More example sentences
  • Only by concerted action can we counter the sheer humanity of those who wish to prolong the agony of death.
  • We want to ensure they have a dignified death and do not die in agony.
  • One can hardly feel the intensity of the agony that he is supposed to have endured in his final hours on earth.


Late Middle English (originally denoting mental anguish alone): via Old French and late Latin from Greek agōnia, from agōn 'contest'. The sense of physical suffering dates from the early 17th century.

  • Agony referred originally only to mental anguish. It came into English via late Latin from Greek agōnia, from agōn ‘contest’ (the base, too, of agonize (late 16th century)). The Greek sense development moved from struggle for victory in the games, to any struggle, to mental struggle specifically (such as the torment of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane). The extension in English to an idea of ‘physical’ suffering dates from the early 17th century. Greek agōn is also the source of the dramatic protagonist (late 17th century) from Greek proto- ‘first’ and a agōnistes ‘actor, contestant’ and at the root of antagonist (late 16th century) from anti- ‘against’ and agōnízesthai ‘struggle’.

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