[ ag-uh-nee ]
/ ˈæg ə ni /
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noun, plural ag·o·nies.
extreme and generally prolonged pain; intense physical or mental suffering.
a display or outburst of intense mental or emotional excitement: an agony of joy.
the struggle preceding natural death: mortal agony.
a violent struggle.
Often Agony .Theology. the sufferings of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.
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Origin of agony

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English agonye (from Anglo-French ), from Late Latin agōnia, from Greek, equivalent to agṓn “struggle” + -ia noun suffix: see agon, -y3

synonym study for agony

1. See pain.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does agony mean?

Agony is extreme pain or suffering, especially the kind that lasts for a long time. The word anguish is a close synonym.

Agony can be physical or emotional. 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 agony—in a state of extreme pain or suffering.

However, agony is perhaps more commonly used in the context of emotional pain (in which case it often likens such suffering to intense physical pain).

The verb agonize can mean to be in agony, but 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.

The adjective agonizing means filled with or resulting in agony, as in agonizing pain.  

Agony also has a few other meanings that are much less common. It can mean an outburst of intense emotional excitement, even a positive one, as in an agony of joy. It can also mean an intense or violent struggle, as in He was in an agony of indecision. More specifically, it can refer to the struggle or suffering that precedes death.

Example: I hope you’ll never have to experience the sheer agony of losing a child.

Where does agony come from?

The first records of the word agony come from the 1300s. It comes from the Greek agōnia, meaning “struggle,” from agōn, “contest.”

Agony appears in the expression “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” which was used in the introduction of the long-running TV show titled Wide World of Sports. The phrase is typically used to contrast the range of intense emotions that can result from a competition that has winners and losers, such as a championship game or an election, with losing sometimes causing agony. Similarly, agony is sometimes contrasted with its extreme opposite, ecstasy—extreme pleasure or joy.

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What are some other forms related to agony?

What are some synonyms for agony?

What are some words that share a root or word element with agony


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

How is agony used in real life?

Agony can refer to physical pain, but perhaps most commonly refers to emotional pain.



Try using agony!

Is agony used correctly in the following sentence? 

The ecstasy of having won the election was soon replaced by the agony of realizing that the results were not correct.

How to use agony in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for agony

/ (ˈæɡənɪ) /

noun plural -nies
acute physical or mental pain; anguish
the suffering or struggle preceding death
pile on the agony, put on the agony or turn on the agony British informal to exaggerate one's distress for sympathy or greater effect
(modifier) relating to or advising on personal problems about which people have written to the mediaagony column; agony writer

Word Origin for agony

C14: via Late Latin from Greek agōnia struggle, from agōn contest
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