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Definition of Ordeal

(noun) A painful or dangerous method of trial controlled by supernatural forces that proves an individual’s guilt or innocence through divine judgement in which survival or degree of injury typically indicates innocence.

Example of Ordeal

  • Bisha’a, used by some Bedouin tribes in Africa, is a ritual ordeal used to determine whether a person has lied. The accused has to lick a hot metal object three times, and if their tongue is burnt, that means they have lied.

Ordeal Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: or·deal

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /or-dEEl/
  • British English – /aw-dEEl/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ɔrˈdil/
  • British English – /ɔːˈdiːl/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: ordeals
  • Also called trial by ordeal.

Additional Information

Related Terms

Cite the Definition of Ordeal

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “ordeal.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/ordeal/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

ordeal. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/ordeal/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “ordeal.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/ordeal/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“ordeal.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 23 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/ordeal/>.