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

Related Words for painfully

achingly, carefully, slowly, painstakingly, sorely, tortuously

Examples from the Web for painfully

Contemporary Examples of painfully

Historical Examples of painfully

  • For he had been painfully conscious now and then that he played but second fiddle.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • But, in truth, it did surprise her to see how slowly and painfully he walked as he left her.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • They spoke of him as "he," and as leading a painfully worthless and disreputable life.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • Then Josie, painfully sweet: "Did you get the invitation, Betty?"

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • He was painfully conscious of what he had missed, had lost—or had not yet found: the love of woman.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

British Dictionary definitions for painfully



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 painfully



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper