Definition of ordeal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ôrˈdēl/


1A painful or horrific experience, especially a protracted one: the ordeal of having to give evidence
More example sentences
  • No one experienced the ordeal of those first few years more acutely than his first wife, Linda.
  • As a consequence he forced the families through the ordeal of the trial.
  • As if the ordeal of a trial were not bad enough, he and Dolores must now face an arguably worse fate.
unpleasant experience, painful experience, trial, tribulation, nightmare, trauma, hell (on earth), misery, trouble, difficulty, torture, torment, agony
2 historical 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.
Example sentences
  • Those presented might then be put to the ordeal to ascertain their guilt or innocence.
  • 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.


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

Words that rhyme with ordeal

allele, anele, anneal, appeal, Bastille, Beale, Castile, chenille, cochineal, cockatiel, conceal, congeal, creel, deal, eel, Emile, feel, freewheel, genteel, Guayaquil, heal, heel, he'll, keel, Kiel, kneel, leal, Lille, Lucille, manchineel, meal, misdeal, Neil, O'Neill, peal, peel, reel, schlemiel, seal, seel, she'll, spiel, squeal, steal, steel, Steele, teal, underseal, veal, weal, we'll, wheel, zeal

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: or·deal

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