Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Full of or giving pain.
  • adjective Causing mental anguish or suffering.
  • adjective Distressing or embarrassing.
  • adjective Requiring care and labor; difficult or irksome.
  • adjective Marked by or requiring great care and diligence.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • That gives or is characterized by pain; of a nature to pain, render uneasy, or inflict suffering, whether bodily or mental; distressing: as, a painful operation in surgery; a painful effort; a painful subject.
  • That requires or necessitates labor, exertion, care, or attention; troublesome; difficult; toilsome.
  • Painstaking; industrious; busy; careful; laborious; hard-working.
  • Synonyms and Racking, agonizing, tormenting, torturing, excruciating, arduous, severe, grievous, trying, afflictive.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Full of pain; causing uneasiness or distress, either physical or mental; afflictive; disquieting; distressing.
  • adjective Requiring labor or toil; difficult; executed with laborious effort.
  • adjective obsolete Painstaking; careful; industrious.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective causing misery or pain or distress
  • adjective causing physical or psychological pain
  • adjective causing physical discomfort
  • adjective exceptionally bad or displeasing

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From pain +‎ -ful.

Examples

  • Just five weeks ago, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed a $4.3 billion budget packed with what he called painful choices, including raising taxes and cutting popular programs.

    Budget squeeze tightens for Montgomery

  • Just five weeks ago, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed a $4.3 billion budget packed with what he called painful choices, including raising taxes and cutting popular programs.

    Budget squeeze tightens for Montgomery

  • Just five weeks ago, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed a $4.3 billion budget packed with what he called painful choices, including raising taxes and cutting popular programs.

    Budget squeeze tightens for Montgomery

  • But the bottom line, the reason why this is major news is you now have a U.S. president really trying to prod both sides to make what he called painful political concessions, to make difficult choices, and putting, basically, a deadline on it.

    CNN Transcript Jan 10, 2008

  • Plus, Michelle Obama speaking very candidly about what she calls the painful, difficult controversy dogging her husband's campaign.

    CNN Transcript May 1, 2008

  • Also, it continues to be the positions of Israel, Arthel, that it wants to see changes to this road map and that it believes the Palestinians need to visibly crackdown on terror organizations before Prime Minister Sharon says Israel is prepared to make what he calls painful concessions.

    CNN Transcript May 11, 2003

  • The original sketch is only an improvisation, but with the second version begins what he calls the painful part of his labor.

    Criticisms and Interpretations. II. By George Pellissier

  • Even today, scientists working with animals tend to think it sentimental to describe animals as feeling "pain" and generally replace the word "painful" with "nociception" in clinical trials.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • Governor Deval Patrick proposed dozens of deep cuts, a few new fees, and some one-time fixes yesterday, as part of what he called a painful but ambitious plan to close a projected

    Boston.com Top Stories

  • The Governor, however, decried what he described as the painful loss of some oil wells belonging to the State to another state and the delisting of the State from the league of oil producing states occasioned by the ceding of Bakassi.

    AllAfrica News: Latest

Comments

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  • "The volunteers, all students, were asked to write about painful experiences, both physical and emotional, then given a difficult mental test shortly afterwards. The principle was that the more painful the recalled experience, the less well the person would perform in the tests.

    Test scores were consistently higher in those recalling physical rather than 'social' pain. Psychological scoring tests revealed that memories of emotional pain were far more vivid."

    - 'Hurt feelings 'worse than pain'', BBC website, 29 August 2008.

    August 30, 2008