[awr-deel, -dee-uh l, awr-deel]


any extremely severe or trying test, experience, or trial.
a primitive form of trial to determine guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to fire, poison, or other serious danger, the result being regarded as a divine or preternatural judgment.

Nearby words

  1. orczy,
  2. ord,
  3. ord.,
  4. ordain,
  5. ordainee,
  6. ordeal bean,
  7. ordeal tree,
  8. order,
  9. order about,
  10. order arms

Origin of ordeal

before 950; Middle English ordal, Old English ordāl; cognate with Dutch oordeel, German Urteil. See a-3, dole1

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ordeal

British Dictionary definitions for ordeal



a severe or trying experience
history a method of trial in which the guilt or innocence of an accused person was determined by subjecting him to physical danger, esp by fire or water. The outcome was regarded as an indication of divine judgment

Word Origin for ordeal

Old English ordāl, ordēl; related to Old Frisian ordēl, Old High German urteili (German Urteil) verdict. See deal 1, dole 1

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 ordeal


Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper