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5 definitions found
 for Ordeal
From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

  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]

From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

  Ordeal \Or"de*al\, a.
     Of or pertaining to trial by ordeal.
     [1913 Webster]

From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) :

  ordeal
      n 1: a severe or trying experience
      2: a primitive method of determining a person's guilt or
         innocence by subjecting the accused person to dangerous or
         painful tests believed to be under divine control; escape was
         usually taken as a sign of innocence [syn: ordeal, trial
         by ordeal]

From Moby Thesaurus II by Grady Ward, 1.0 :

  49 Moby Thesaurus words for "ordeal":
     Sabbat, acid test, adversity, affliction, anguish, assay,
     blank determination, brouillon, calvary, criterion, cross,
     crucial test, crucible, determination, disaster, distress,
     docimasy, essay, feeling out, fiery ordeal, first draft,
     ghost dance, grief, hardship, kiteflying, magic circle, misery,
     misfortune, nightmare, ordeal by battle, probation, proof,
     rough draft, rough sketch, sounding out, standard, suffering, test,
     test case, touchstone, tragedy, trial, trials and tribulations,
     tribulation, tribulations, troubles, try, verification,
     visitation
  
  

From Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Revised 6th Ed (1856) :

  ORDEAL. An ancient superstitious mode of tribal. When in a criminal case the 
  accused was arraigned, be might select the mode of trial either by God and 
  his country, that is, by jury; or by God only, that is by ordeal. 
       2. The trial by ordeal was either by fire or by water. Those who were 
  tried by the former passed barefooted and blindfolded over nine hot glowing 
  ploughshares; or were to carry burning irons in their hands; and accordingly 
  as they escaped or not, they were acquitted or condemned. The water ordeal 
  was performed either in hot or cold water. In cold water, the parties 
  suspected were adjudged innocent, if their bodies were not borne up by the 
  water contrary to the course of nature; and if, after putting their bare 
  arms or legs into scalding water they came out unhurt, they were taken to be 
  innocent of the crime. 
       3. It was impiously supposed that God would, by the mere contrivance of 
  man, exercise his power in favor of the innocent. 4. Bl. Com. 342; 2 Am. 
  Jur. 280. For a detailed account of the trial by ordeal, see Herb. Antiq. of 
  the Inns of Court, 146. 
  
  

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