[ traj-i-dee ]
See synonyms for: tragedytragedies on

noun,plural trag·e·dies.
  1. a lamentable, dreadful, or fatal event or affair; calamity; disaster: stunned by the tragedy of so many deaths.

  2. a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically involving a great person destined to experience downfall or utter destruction, as through a character flaw or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or an unyielding society.

  1. the branch of the drama that is concerned with this form of composition.

  2. the art and theory of writing and producing tragedies.

  3. any literary composition, as a novel, dealing with a somber theme carried to a tragic or disastrous conclusion.

  4. the tragic or mournful or calamitous element of drama, of literature generally, or of life.

Origin of tragedy

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English tragedie, from Medieval Latin tragēdia, Latin tragoedia, from Greek tragōidía, from trág(os) “goat” + ōid(ḗ) “song” (see ode) + -ia -y3; reason for name variously explained

Other words from tragedy

  • non·trag·e·dy, noun, plural non·trag·e·dies.
  • pro·trag·e·dy, adjective
  • su·per·trag·e·dy, noun, plural su·per·trag·e·dies. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tragedy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tragedy


/ (ˈtrædʒɪdɪ) /

nounplural -dies
  1. (esp in classical and Renaissance drama) a play in which the protagonist, usually a man of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he cannot deal

  2. (in later drama, such as that of Ibsen) a play in which the protagonist is overcome by a combination of social and psychological circumstances

  1. any dramatic or literary composition dealing with serious or sombre themes and ending with disaster

  2. (in medieval literature) a literary work in which a great person falls from prosperity to disaster, often through no fault of his own

  3. the branch of drama dealing with such themes

  4. the unfortunate aspect of something

  5. a shocking or sad event; disaster

Origin of tragedy

C14: from Old French tragédie, from Latin tragoedia, from Greek tragōidia, from tragos goat + ōidē song; perhaps a reference to the goat-satyrs of Peloponnesian plays

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

Cultural definitions for tragedy


A serious drama in which a central character, the protagonist — usually an important, heroic person — meets with disaster either through some personal fault or through unavoidable circumstances. In most cases, the protagonist's downfall conveys a sense of human dignity in the face of great conflict. Tragedy originated in ancient Greece in the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. In modern times, it achieved excellence with William Shakespeare in such works as Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello. Twentieth-century tragedies include Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, and Murder in the Cathedral, by T. S. Eliot.

Notes for tragedy

Aristotle argued that the proper effect of tragedy is catharsis — the purging of the emotions.

Notes for tragedy

In common usage, disasters of many kinds are called tragedies.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.