Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

painful

adjective
     
pain‧ful
1 making you feel very upset, or very difficult and unpleasant for you [≠ painless]
painful memories/experience etc
He sobbed as he recalled the painful memory.
Venice was a painful reminder of her marriage.
He and his wife took the painful decision to switch off their son's life support machine.
the long and painful process of growing up
painful to do something
It can be painful to leave the house in which you were born.
painful for/to
The divorce was painful for both of us.
Even hearing his name was painful to her.
2 if a part of your body is painful, it hurts:
stiff, painful joints
Is your arm very painful?
The neck becomes swollen and painful to the touch (=hurts when you touch it).
3 causing physical pain:
a painful blow on the head
excruciatingly/extremely painful
an excruciatingly painful death
painful to do something
He was finding it painful to breathe.
4 if someone's behaviour or a performance is painful, it is so bad that it embarrasses people
painful to watch/listen/hear to etc
It's painful to watch her making the best of a terrible script.
! Do not use painful to mean 'feeling pain': He didn't feel much pain (NOT feel very painful) at first!

Dictionary pictures of the day
Do you know what each of these is called?
What is the word for picture 1? What is the word for picture 2? What is the word for picture 3? What is the word for picture 4?
Click on any of the pictures above to find out what it is called.

Explore our topic dictionary