- 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
SynonymsSee more synonyms for painful on Thesaurus.com
1. distressing, torturing, agonizing, tormenting, excruciating. 2. arduous.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for painful
To his critics, he explained—sometimes at painful length—his reasoning against it.Jeb Bush’s Unseen Anti-Gay Marriage Emails
January 9, 2015
What follows is hysterical, painful, weird, and strangely touching—a true Festivus for the rest of us.The Top 10 Nontraditional Christmas TV Episodes
December 25, 2014
I turned left, and began the long, painful walk to the emergency room at the University of Virginia medical center.I Was Gang Raped at a UVA Frat 30 Years Ago, and No One Did Anything
December 16, 2014
The audience--tout Hollywood--stands to cheer his slow and painful trek from the wings to the table.Alfred Hitchcock’s Fade to Black: The Great Director’s Final Days
December 13, 2014
He can't wrap his head around the idea that people may want to talk about painful events.The Right's Rape Trolls vs. Lena Dunham
December 10, 2014
Silence was painful to me, and reply only accumulated difficulty and vexation.
Now he scanned the trees on the edge of the clearing with painful anxiety.
The circumstances were painful, but added a dramatic touch to the scene.The Grand Old Man
Richard B. Cook
And in the painful cleaning of the wound he did not murmur once.
He had been shot in the most painful place in the body—the palm of the hand.
- causing pain; distressinga painful duty
- affected with paina painful leg
- tedious or difficult
- informal extremely bada painful performance
Word Origin and History for painful
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper