excruciating or acute distress, suffering, or pain: the anguish of grief.

verb (used with object)

to inflict with distress, suffering, or pain.

verb (used without object)

to suffer, feel, or exhibit anguish: to anguish over the loss of a loved one.

Origin of anguish

1175–1225; Middle English anguisse < Old French < Latin angustia tight place, equivalent to angust(us) narrow + -ia -ia; cf. anxious; akin to anger

Synonyms for anguish

Synonym study

1. See pain.

Antonyms for anguish Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for anguish

Contemporary Examples of anguish

Historical Examples of anguish

  • We learn nothing, we take no forward step, except as we are whipped to it by anguish.

  • There was anguish in the cry torn from the girl's throat in the sudden access of despair.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Twice she cried in anguish to Allis that she must go in; must see her husband.


    W. A. Fraser

  • Her anguish was redoubled by this mysterious and inexplicable struggle within her.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • His loss had the bitterness of defeat, with the anguish of a baffled passion.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for anguish



extreme pain or misery; mental or physical torture; agony


to afflict or be afflicted with anguish

Word Origin for anguish

C13: from Old French angoisse a strangling, from Latin angustia narrowness, from angustus narrow
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 anguish

c.1200, "acute bodily or mental suffering," from Old French anguisse, angoisse "choking sensation, distress, anxiety, rage," from Latin angustia (plural angustiae) "tightness, straitness, narrowness;" figuratively "distress, difficulty," from ang(u)ere "to throttle, torment" (see anger (v.)).


early 14c., intransitive and reflexive; mid-14c., transitive, from Old French anguissier (Modern French angoisser), from anguisse (see anguish (n.)). Related: Anguished; anguishing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper