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}, v. & n., and cf. {Arise}, {Ort}.] 1. An ancient form of test to determine guilt or innocence, by appealing to a supernatural decision, -- once common in Europe, and still practiced in the East and by savage tribes. [1913 Webster]

Note: In England ordeal by fire and ordeal by water were used, the former confined to persons of rank, the latter to the common people. The ordeal by fire was performed, either by handling red-hot iron, or by walking barefoot and blindfold over red-hot plowshares, laid at unequal distances. If the person escaped unhurt, he was adjudged innocent; otherwise he was condemned as guilty. The ordeal by water was performed, either by plunging the bare arm to the elbow in boiling water, an escape from injury being taken as proof of innocence, or by casting the accused person, bound hand and foot, into a river or pond, when if he floated it was an evidence of guilt, but if he sunk he was acquitted. It is probable that the proverbial phrase, to go through fire and water, denoting severe trial or danger, is derived from the ordeal. See {Wager of battle}, under {Wager}. [1913 Webster]

2. Any severe trial, or test; a painful experience. [1913 Webster]

{Ordeal bean}. (Bot.) See {Calabar bean}, under {Calabar}.

{Ordeal root} (Bot.) the root of a species of {Strychnos} growing in West Africa, used, like the ordeal bean, in trials for witchcraft.

{Ordeal tree} (Bot.), a poisonous tree of Madagascar ({Tanghinia venenata} syn. {Cerbera venenata}). Persons suspected of crime are forced to eat the seeds of the plumlike fruit, and criminals are put to death by being pricked with a lance dipped in the juice of the seeds. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • 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.) 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… …   Etymology dictionary

  • 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

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”