- any extremely severe or trying test, experience, or trial.
- a primitive form of trial to determine guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to fire, poison, or other serious danger, the result being regarded as a divine or preternatural judgment.
Origin of ordeal
Examples from the Web for ordeal
This is a new version of Catman, his past is yet to be told, but an ordeal made him not just badass, but flawed, deeply flawed.Gail Simone’s Bisexual Catman and the ‘Secret Six’
December 6, 2014
Every visit to a hospital is an ordeal but for those who cannot pay for private care the experience is a horror show.Putin’s Health Care Disaster
November 30, 2014
At no time during his ordeal was Turing able to publicly reveal the far greater secret that had framed his life since 1940.The Castration of Alan Turing, Britain’s Code-Breaking WWII Hero
November 29, 2014
The ordeal faced by Ms. Kolkiewicz, the Ebola victim, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Mutora is terrifying.What It’s Like to Wake Up Dead
Dr. Anand Veeravagu, MD, Tej Azad
November 21, 2014
Many women find a car journey with regular morning sickness quite an ordeal.Our Hero! Morning Sickness Stricken Kate Middleton Rides In a 200 Year Old Carriage
October 21, 2014
Had I been subject only to his examination, my ordeal would not have been severe.
I was sure only that they had been through an ordeal and were feeling the reaction.It Happened in Egypt
C. N. Williamson
He divined the nature of the ordeal through which he had gone.The Rock of Chickamauga
Joseph A. Altsheler
He had resolved to subject her to the ordeal of the prince's addresses.Calderon The Courtier
But this ordeal combat was far removed from the domain of sport.English Villages
P. H. Ditchfield
- a severe or trying experience
- history a method of trial in which the guilt or innocence of an accused person was determined by subjecting him to physical danger, esp by fire or water. The outcome was regarded as an indication of divine judgment
Word Origin and History for ordeal
Old English ordel, ordal, "trial by physical test," literally "judgment, verdict," from Proto-Germanic noun *uzdailjam (cf. Old Saxon urdeli, Old Frisian urdel, Dutch oordeel, German urteil "judgment"), literally "that which is dealt out" (by the gods), from *uzdailijan "share out," related to Old English adælan "to deal out" (see deal (n.1)). Curiously absent in Middle English, and perhaps reborrowed 16c. from Medieval Latin or Middle French, which got it from Germanic.
The notion is of the kind of arduous physical test (such as walking blindfolded and barefoot between red-hot plowshares) that was believed to determine a person's guilt or innocence by immediate judgment of the deity, an ancient Teutonic mode of trial. English retains a more exact sense of the word; its cognates in German, etc., have been generalized.
Metaphoric extension to "anything which tests character or endurance" is attested from 1650s. The prefix or- survives in English only in this word, but was common in Old English and other Germanic languages (Gothic ur-, Old Norse or-, etc.) and originally was an adverb and preposition meaning "out."