[ ag-uh-nahy-zing ]
/ ˈæg əˌnaɪ zɪŋ /
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See synonyms for: agonizing / agonizingly on Thesaurus.com

accompanied by, filled with, or resulting in agony or distress: We spent an agonizing hour waiting to hear if the accident had been serious or not.
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Origin of agonizing

First recorded in 1660–70; agonize + -ing2


ag·o·niz·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does agonizing mean?

Agonizing means filled with or resulting in agony—extreme pain or suffering, especially the kind that lasts for a long time. A close synonym is excruciating.

Agony can be physical or emotional, and things that are agonizing can involve physical or emotional pain. A person who has just broken their leg and a person who has just experienced the death of a loved one could both be said to be in agonizing pain. To suffer an agonizing death is to experience an extremely painful one. An agonizing decision is one that is very hard to make due to being emotionally painful in some way.

Agonizing is also the continuous tense (-ing form) of the verb agonize, which can mean to be in agony. However, it most commonly means to put forth a great effort—to struggle or strive, as in She’s been agonizing about what to get you for your birthday. 

Example: She’s down and appears to be in agonizing pain—the trainers are coming onto the field now to help her.

Where does agonizing come from?

The first records of the word agonizing come from the 1500s. Its base word, agonize, comes from the Greek verb agōnízesthai, meaning “to struggle,” from agōn, “contest.”

Agonizing is typically used to describe things that involve intense pain or suffering, but sometimes it’s used in an exaggerated way. For example, describing a wait as agonizing usually means that it’s very long and hard to sit through—but not actually painful. Some waits can be truly emotionally agonizing, though—such as a wait to receive serious medical test results.

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What are some other forms related to agonizing?

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What are some words that often get used in discussing agonizing?

How is agonizing used in real life?

Agonizing is commonly used to describe both intense physical and emotional pain.



Try using agonizing!

Is agonizing used correctly in the following sentence? 

The decision to lay off some of my employees was agonizing, but I wouldn’t have been able to stay in business otherwise.

How to use agonizing in a sentence