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  1. physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness, etc.
  2. a distressing sensation in a particular part of the body: a back pain.
  3. mental or emotional suffering or torment: I am sorry my news causes you such pain.
  4. pains,
    1. laborious or careful efforts; assiduous care: Great pains have been taken to repair the engine perfectly.
    2. the suffering of childbirth.
  5. Informal. an annoying or troublesome person or thing.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to cause physical pain to; hurt.
  2. to cause (someone) mental or emotional pain; distress: Your sarcasm pained me.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to have or give pain.
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  1. feel no pain, Informal. to be intoxicated: After all that free beer, we were feeling no pain.
  2. on/upon/under pain of, liable to the penalty of: on pain of death.
  3. pain in the ass, Slang: Vulgar. pain(def 5).
  4. pain in the neck, Informal. pain(def 5).
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Origin of pain

1250–1300; Middle English peine punishment, torture, pain < Old French < Latin poena penalty, pain < Greek poinḗ penalty
Related formsun·der·pain, nounun·pain·ing, adjective

Synonyms for pain

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Synonym study

1–3. Pain , ache , agony , anguish are terms for sensations causing suffering or torment. Pain and ache usually refer to physical sensations (except heartache ); agony and anguish may be physical or mental. Pain suggests a sudden sharp twinge: a pain in one's ankle. Ache applies to a continuous pain, whether acute or dull: headache; muscular aches. Agony implies a continuous, excruciating, scarcely endurable pain: in agony from a wound. Anguish suggests not only extreme and long-continued pain, but also a feeling of despair. 4a. See care.

Antonyms for pain

3. joy, delight. 7. please.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for pains

cramp, fever, burn, sickness, soreness, agony, irritation, wound, strain, discomfort, illness, torment, misery, twinge, ache, trouble, injury, tenderness, spasm, heartache

Examples from the Web for pains

Contemporary Examples of pains

Historical Examples of pains

British Dictionary definitions for pains


pl n
  1. care, trouble, or effort (esp in the phrases take pains, be at pains to)
  2. painful sensations experienced during contractions in childbirth; labour pains
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  1. the sensation of acute physical hurt or discomfort caused by injury, illness, etc
  2. emotional suffering or mental distress
  3. on pain of subject to the penalty of
  4. Also called: pain in the neck, (taboo) pain in the arse informal a person or thing that is a nuisance
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verb (tr)
  1. to cause (a person) distress, hurt, grief, anxiety, etc
  2. informal to annoy; irritate
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See also pains

Word Origin for pain

C13: from Old French peine, from Latin poena punishment, grief, from Greek poinē penalty
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 pains



late 13c., "punishment," especially for a crime; also "condition one feels when hurt, opposite of pleasure," from Old French peine "difficulty, woe, suffering, punishment, Hell's torments" (11c.), from Latin poena "punishment, penalty, retribution, indemnification" (in Late Latin also "torment, hardship, suffering"), from Greek poine "retribution, penalty, quit-money for spilled blood," from PIE *kwei- "to pay, atone, compensate" (see penal). The earliest sense in English survives in phrase on pain of death.

Phrase to give (someone) a pain "be annoying and irritating" is from 1908; localized as pain in the neck (1924) and pain in the ass (1934), though this last might have gone long unrecorded and be the original sense and the others euphemisms. Pains "great care taken (for some purpose)" is first recorded 1520s (in the singular in this sense, it is attested from c.1300). First record of pain-killer is from 1853.

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c.1300, "to exert or strain oneself, strive; endeavor," from Old French pener (v.) "to hurt, cause pain," from peine, and from Middle English peine (n.); see pain (n.). Transitive meaning "cause pain; inflict pain" is from late 14c. That of "to cause sorrow, grief, or unhappiness" also is from late 14c. Related: Pained; paining.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

pains in Medicine


  1. An unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional disorder.
  2. One of the uterine contractions occurring in childbirth.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with pains


In addition to the idioms beginning with pain

  • pain in the neck

also see:

  • at pains
  • feel no pain
  • for one's pains
  • growing pains
  • no pain, no gain
  • on pain of
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.