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[pur-guh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈpɜr gəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/
noun, plural purgatories.
(in the belief of Roman Catholics and others) a condition or place in which the souls of those dying penitent are purified from venial sins, or undergo the temporal punishment that, after the guilt of mortal sin has been remitted, still remains to be endured by the sinner.
(initial capital letter, italics). Italian Purgatorio
[poor-gah-taw-ryaw] /ˌpur gɑˈtɔ ryɔ/ (Show IPA)
. the second part of Dante's Divine Comedy, in which the repentant sinners are depicted.
Compare inferno (def 3), paradise (def 7).
any condition or place of temporary punishment, suffering, expiation, or the like.
serving to cleanse, purify, or expiate.
Origin of purgatory
1175-1225; (noun) Middle English purgatorie (< Anglo-French) < Medieval Latin pūrgātōrium, noun use of neuter of Late Latin pūrgātōrius purging, equivalent to pūrgā(re) to purge + -tōrius -tory1; (adj.) Middle English purgatorie < Late Latin pūrgātōrius Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for purgatory
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She had felt his arms warm and close and strong about her, and had not known whether she was in paradise or in purgatory.

    The Last Chronicle of Barset Anthony Trollope
  • I only hope there's a purgatory for the folks that use too short check-reins on their horses.

    Jewel Clara Louise Burnham
  • He would go on suffering for years before he would send his soul to purgatory by such an act.

    From the Housetops George Barr McCutcheon
  • A vacation for him was purgatory, it was separation from a loved one.

    The Risk Profession Donald Edwin Westlake
  • The person of one of them, Sordello, is familiar to every reader of the purgatory.

British Dictionary definitions for purgatory


/ˈpɜːɡətərɪ; -trɪ/
(mainly RC Church) a state or place in which the souls of those who have died in a state of grace are believed to undergo a limited amount of suffering to expiate their venial sins and become purified of the remaining effects of mortal sin
a place or condition of suffering or torment, esp one that is temporary
Word Origin
C13: from Old French purgatoire, from Medieval Latin pūrgātōrium, literally: place of cleansing, from Latin pūrgāre to purge
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for purgatory

c.1200, from Old French purgatore and directly from Medieval Latin purgatorium (St. Bernard, early 12c.), in Latin, "means of cleansing," noun use of neuter of purgatorius (adj.) "purging, cleansing," from purgat-, past participle stem of Latin purgare (see purge (v.)). Figurative use from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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purgatory in Culture

purgatory definition

In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the condition of souls of the dead who die with some punishment (though not damnation) due them for their sins. Purgatory is conceived as a condition of suffering and purification that leads to union with God in heaven. Purgatory is not mentioned in the Bible; Catholic authorities defend the teaching on purgatory by arguing that prayer for the dead is an ancient practice of Christianity and that this practice assumes that the dead can be in a state of suffering — a state that the living can improve by their prayers.

Note: A “purgatory” is, by extension, any place of suffering, usually for past misdeeds.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for purgatory



An extremely unpleasant experience; a temporary condition of suffering: the purgatory of drug abuse (1807+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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