verb (used without object), ag·o·nized, ag·o·niz·ing.
  1. to suffer extreme pain or anguish; be in agony.
  2. to put forth great effort of any kind.
verb (used with object), ag·o·nized, ag·o·niz·ing.
  1. to distress with extreme pain; torture.
Also especially British, ag·o·nise.

Origin of agonize

1575–85; < Medieval Latin agōnizāre < Greek agōnízesthai to struggle (for a prize), equivalent to agōn- agon + -izesthai -ize Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for agonising

Contemporary Examples of agonising

  • The sign says that it produced “extreme emaciation and a slow, agonising death.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    My Visit To Hell

    Christopher Buckley

    January 30, 2009

Historical Examples of agonising

  • His desire of life tormented him in a paroxysm of agonising remorse.

    Almayer's Folly

    Joseph Conrad

  • Fear, fear was clutching me, compressing me in an agonising grip.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • It must be agonising to you, and there would be dishonour as well as pain to me, in witnessing that agony.


    Harriet Martineau

  • In a moment more the agonising, hacking, rending cough came on.

    The Dop Doctor

    Clotilde Inez Mary Graves

  • “That agonising pain in the back goes on too,” continued Bracy.

    Fix Bay'nets

    George Manville Fenn

British Dictionary definitions for agonising



  1. to suffer or cause to suffer agony
  2. (intr) to make a desperate effort; struggle; strive
Derived Formsagonizingly or agonisingly, adverb

Word Origin for agonize

C16: via Medieval Latin from Greek agōnizesthai to contend for a prize, from agōn agon
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

Word Origin and History for agonising



1580s, "to torture," from Middle French agoniser or directly from Medieval Latin agonizare, from Greek agonizesthai "to contend in the struggle" (see agony). Intransitive sense of "to suffer physical pain" is recorded from 1660s. That of "to worry intensely" is from 1853. Related: Agonized; agonizing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper