Ordeal root
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.

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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 bean — 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… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ordeal tree — 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… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cerbera venenata — 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… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tanghinia venenata — 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… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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