AskDefine | Define anguish

Dictionary Definition



1 extreme mental distress [syn: torment, torture]
2 extreme distress of body or mind


1 suffer great pains or distress
2 cause emotional anguish or make miserable; "It pains me to see my children not being taught well in school" [syn: pain, hurt]

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English anguishe, anguise, angoise, French angoisse, from Latin angustia narrowness, difficulty, distress, from angustus narrow, difficult, from angere to press together. See Anger.


IPA: WEAE /'a[ng]-gwish/


anguish (uncountable)
  1. Extreme pain, either of body or mind; excruciating distress.


  • 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.
— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Hound of the Baskervilles

Extensive Definition

For the movie, see Anguish (film)
Anguish is a term used in contemporary philosophy, often as a translation from the German angst, meaning "dread". It is a paramount feature of existentialist philosophy, in which anguish is often understood as the experience of an utterly free being in a world with zero absolutes (existential despair). In the theology of Kierkegaard, it refers to a being with total free will who is in a constant state of spiritual fear that his free will leads him to fall short of the standards that God has laid for him.
In the teachings of Sartre, anguish is seen when an utterly free beings realizes the unpredictability of his or her action. For example, when walking along a cliff, you would feel anguish to know that you have the freedom to throw yourself down to your imminent death.


Main Entry: 1an·guish
Pronunciation: \ˈaŋ-gwish\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English angwisshe, from Anglo-French anguisse, angoisse, from Latin angustiae, plural, straits, distress, from angustus narrow; akin to Old English enge narrow — more at anger
Date: 13th century
extreme pain, distress, or anxiety


It has also been said "That we create our own anguish and that if we had reacted differently we would not have caused ourselves this thing we call Anguish so it is up to you whether to be calm or cause yourself pain and distress".
anguish in Catalan: Angoixa
anguish in Spanish: Angustia
anguish in German: Qual

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ache, aching heart, afflict, affliction, aggrieve, agonize, agony, agony of mind, ail, angst, anxiety, atrocious pain, bale, barb the dart, bitterness, blanch, bleed, bleeding heart, blench, boredom, break down, bring to tears, broken heart, bruise, care, carking care, cheerlessness, crucifixion, crush, crushing, cut, cut up, depression, depth of misery, desolate, desolation, despair, discomfort, discomposure, discontent, dislike, displeasure, disquiet, dissatisfaction, distress, disturb, dole, draw tears, dread, dullness, embitter, emptiness, ennui, excruciation, existential woe, extremity, feel pain, feel the pangs, flatness, go hard with, grief, grieve, grimace, grimness, have a misery, heartache, heartbreak, heartfelt grief, heartgrief, heavy heart, hurt, hurt the feelings, infelicity, inquietude, inundate, joylessness, lack of pleasure, lamentation, languishment, malaise, martyrdom, martyrization, melancholia, melancholy, misery, nausea, nongratification, nonsatisfaction, oppress, overwhelm, pain, painfulness, pang, pierce, pining, pound, prick, prostrate, prostration, rack, regret, rue, sadness, savorlessness, shoot, shrink, smart, sorrow, sorrowing, spleen, stab, staleness, sting, suffer, suffer anguish, suffering, suicidal despair, tastelessness, tediousness, tedium, thrill, throb, tingle, torment, torture, trouble, twinge, twist the knife, twitch, uncomfortableness, unease, uneasiness, unhappiness, unpleasure, unsatisfaction, upset, vexation of spirit, wince, woe, worry, wound, wretchedness, writhe
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