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See also: Anguish



  • enPR: ăngʹ-gwĭsh, IPA(key): /ˈæŋ.ɡwɪʃ/
  • (file)

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English angwissh, anguishe, angoise, from Anglo-Norman anguise, anguisse, from Old French angoisse, from Latin angustia (narrowness, scarcity, difficulty, distress), from angustus (narrow, difficult), from angere (to press together, cause pain, distress). See angst, the Germanic cognate, and anger.


August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck – Anguish. Oil on canvas around 1877.

anguish (countable and uncountable, plural anguishes)

  1. Extreme pain, either of body or mind; excruciating distress.
    • 1549, Hugh Latimer, "The Third Sermon Preached before King Edward VI:
      So, ye miserable people; you must go to God in anguishes, and make your prayer to him.
    • c. 1595–1596 (date written), William Shakespeare, “A Midsommer Nights Dreame”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene i]:
      Is there no play,
      To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book I, Canto LIII”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC:
      Love of your selfe, she saide, and deare constraint,
      Lets me not sleepe, but wast the wearie night
      In secret anguish and unpittied plaint,
      Whiles you in carelesse sleepe are drowned quight.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Exodus 6:9:
      But they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.
    • 1700, [John] Dryden, “Cinyras and Myrrha, out of the Tenth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphosis”, in Fables Ancient and Modern; [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      There, loathing Life, and yet of Death afraid,
      In Anguish of her Spirit, thus she pray'd.
    • 1708, John Philips, Cyder, book I, London: J. Tonson:
      May I the sacred pleasures know
      Of strictest amity, nor ever want
      A friend with whom I mutually may share
      Gladness and anguish []
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 18, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC:
      She took his trembling hand, and kissed it, and put it round her neck: she called him her John—her dear John—her old man—her kind old man; she poured out a hundred words of incoherent love and tenderness; her faithful voice and simple caresses wrought this sad heart up to an inexpressible delight and anguish, and cheered and solaced his over-burdened soul.
    • 1889, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles:
      A terrible scream—a prolonged yell of horror and anguish—burst out of the silence of the moor. That frightful cry turned the blood to ice in my veins.
    • 1892, Walt Whitman, “Old War-Dreams”, in The Leaves of Grass:
      In midnight sleep of many a face of anguish,
      Of the look at first of the mortally wounded, (of that indescribable
      Of the dead on their backs with arms extended wide,
      I dream, I dream, I dream.
    Synonyms: agony, calvary, cross, pang, torture, torment; see also Thesaurus:agony
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English angwischen, anguis(s)en, from Old French angoissier, anguissier,[1] from the noun (see Etymology 1).


anguish (third-person singular simple present anguishes, present participle anguishing, simple past and past participle anguished)

  1. (intransitive) To suffer pain.
    • c. 1900s, Kl. Knigge, Iceland Folk Song, traditional, Harmony: H. Ruland
      We’re leaving these shores for our time has come, the days of our youth must now end. The hearts bitter anguish, it burns for the home that we’ll never see again.
  2. (transitive) To cause to suffer pain.


  1. ^ angwisshen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2018, retrieved 21 October 2019.

Further reading[edit]