Share this entry

purgatory Line breaks: pur¦ga|tory
Pronunciation: /ˈpəːɡət(ə)ri/

Definition of purgatory in English:

noun (plural purgatories)

1 (often Purgatory) (In Catholic doctrine) a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven: all her sins were forgiven and she would not need to go to Purgatory the punishment of souls in purgatory
More example sentences
  • We Catholics believe in the purgatory and the heavens.
  • Shows last week had discussions on Marian devotion, purgatory, and other Catholic doctrines.
  • At the same time, the emphasis on the life of the soul in purgatory, heaven, or hell made the corpse irrelevant to popular perceptions of life after death.
1.1 [mass noun] Mental anguish or suffering: this was purgatory, worse than anything she’d faced in her life
More example sentences
  • I felt suspended in some kind of mental purgatory that demanded that I experience the collective disappointment of each and every person there.
  • I find it particularly galling because, in this country, we have had to suffer pretty near total purgatory at the hands of our various enforcement agencies who seem to start from the premise that we are all members of that same Mafia clan.
  • For Arthur, separation from Alec was purgatory, although the pair believed they were in touch telepathically.
torment, torture, misery, suffering, affliction, anguish, agony, wretchedness, woe, tribulation, hell, hell on earth;
an ordeal, a nightmare, a hellhole, an abyss;
trials and tribulations


archaic Back to top  
Having the quality of cleansing or purifying: infernal punishments are purgatory and medicinal


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French purgatorie or medieval Latin purgatorium, neuter (used as a noun) of late Latin purgatorius 'purifying', from the verb purgare (see purge).



Pronunciation: /pəːɡəˈtɔːrɪəl/
Example sentences
  • This often results in a purgatorial sort of existence, with tenants waiting for the time when they'll be able to buy their own place before they expend any great effort on the environment they want to live in.
  • The purgatorial state of the nation comes, she argues, from its twisted roots as a colony that never said goodbye to the Crown and a struggle between two official tongues.
  • The phrase has purgatorial resonances: you feel that those who are in the waiting-room are going to be there for some time.

Words that rhyme with purgatory

expurgatory, objurgatory

Definition of purgatory in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day confidant
Pronunciation: ˈkänfəˌdant
a person with whom one shares a secret...