from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Causing pain.
  • adj. Full of pain.
  • adj. Requiring care and labor; irksome: a painful task.
  • adj. Archaic Diligent; careful.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

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

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


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From pain +‎ -ful.


  • 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 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 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

  • One wished he had displayed this deft political acumen in the past five years and in doing so could have avoided what he calls painful adjectives as being the 'weakest prime minister' this country has seen.

    INI Signal

  • Ryan, who had doubled as special-education director since 2006, apologized for what she characterized as a painful episode for the island community and said she has always kept the children's best interests at heart. Projo Local News


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "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