affected with, causing, or characterized by pain: a painful wound; a painful night; a painful memory.
laborious; exacting; difficult: a painful life.
Archaic. painstaking; careful.

Origin of painful

Middle English word dating back to 1300–50; see origin at pain, -ful
Related formspain·ful·ly, adverbpain·ful·ness, nouno·ver·pain·ful, adjectiveo·ver·pain·ful·ly, adverbo·ver·pain·ful·ness, nounun·pain·ful, adjectiveun·pain·ful·ly, adverb

Synonyms for painful

1. distressing, torturing, agonizing, tormenting, excruciating. 2. arduous.

Antonyms for painful

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

Examples from the Web for painful

Contemporary Examples of painful

Historical Examples of painful

British Dictionary definitions for painful



causing pain; distressinga painful duty
affected with paina painful leg
tedious or difficult
informal extremely bada painful performance
Derived Formspainfully, adverbpainfulness, noun
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 painful

mid-14c., from pain (n.) + -ful. Related: Painfully; painfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper