ordeal


ordeal
ordeal (n.) O.E. ordel, lit. "judgment, verdict," from P.Gmc. noun *uzdailjam (Cf. O.S. urdeli, O.Fris. urdel, Du. oordeel, Ger. urteil "judgment"), lit. "that which is dealt out" (by the gods), from *uzdailijan "share out," related to O.E. adælan "to deal out" (see DEAL (Cf. deal) (n.1)). Curiously absent in Middle English, and perhaps reborrowed 16c. from Medieval Latin or Middle French, which got it from Germanic.
The notion is of the kind of arduous physical test (such as walking blindfolded and barefoot between red-hot plowshares) that was believed to determine a person's guilt or innocence by immediate judgment of the deity, an ancient Teutonic mode of trial. English retains a more exact sense of the word; its cognates in German, etc., have been generalized.
Metaphoric extension to "anything which tests character or endurance" is attested from 1650s. The prefix or- survives in English only in this word, but was common in Old English and other Germanic languages (Goth. ur-, O.N. or-, etc.) and originally was an adverb and preposition meaning "out."

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • Ordeal — Or de*al ([^o]r d[ e]*al), n. [AS. ord[=a]l, ord[=ae]l, a judgment; akin to D. oordeel, G. urteil, urtheil; orig., what is dealt out, the prefix or being akin to [=a] compounded with verbs, G. er , ur , Goth. us , orig. meaning, out. See {Deal},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ORDEAL — ORDEAL, the generic term for the various ways and means by which divine judgment would be ascertained. The most common form of ordeal, which survived long into the Middle Ages and beyond, was entirely unknown to biblical as well as to later… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • ordeal — index aggravation (annoyance), burden, infliction, nuisance, pain, trouble Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton …   Law dictionary

  • Ordeal — Or de*al, a. Of or pertaining to trial by ordeal. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ordeal — may refer to The American title of What Happened to the Corbetts, a 1939 novel by Nevil Shute Trial by ordeal, the judicial practice This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title. If an …   Wikipedia

  • ordeal — [n] trouble, suffering affliction, agony, anguish, calamity, calvary, cross, crucible, difficulty, distress, nightmare, test, torment, torture, trial, tribulation, visitation; concepts 674,728 Ant. happiness, pleasure …   New thesaurus

  • ordeal — ► NOUN 1) a prolonged painful or horrific experience. 2) an ancient test of guilt or innocence in which the accused was subjected to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof of innocence. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • ordeal — [ôr dēl′, ôr′dēl΄] n. [ME ordal < OE, akin to Ger urteil, judgment < WGmc * uzdailjo , what is dealt out < * uzdailjan, to deal out, allot, adjudge < * uz , out + * dailjan < * dails, a part, share] 1. an ancient method of trial in …   English World dictionary

  • ordeal — or|deal [o:ˈdi:l, ˈo:di:l US o:rˈdi:l, ˈo:rdi:l] n [: Old English; Origin: ordal trial, judgment ] a terrible or painful experience that continues for a period of time ordeal of ▪ She then had to go through the ordeal of giving evidence. ▪ She… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • ordeal — The most ancient species of trial, in Saxon and old English law, being peculiarly distinguished by the appellation of judicium Dei, or judgment of God, it being supposed that supernatural intervention would rescue an innocent person from the… …   Black's law dictionary