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[peyn] /peɪn/
physical suffering or distress, as due to injury, illness, etc.
a distressing sensation in a particular part of the body:
a back pain.
mental or emotional suffering or torment:
I am sorry my news causes you such pain.
  1. laborious or careful efforts; assiduous care:
    Great pains have been taken to repair the engine perfectly.
  2. the suffering of childbirth.
Informal. an annoying or troublesome person or thing.
verb (used with object)
to cause physical pain to; hurt.
to cause (someone) mental or emotional pain; distress:
Your sarcasm pained me.
verb (used without object)
to have or give pain.
feel no pain, Informal. to be intoxicated:
After all that free beer, we were feeling no pain.
on / upon / under pain of, liable to the penalty of:
on pain of death.
pain in the ass, Slang: Vulgar. pain (def 5).
pain in the neck, Informal. pain (def 5).
Origin of pain
1250-1300; Middle English peine punishment, torture, pain < Old French < Latin poena penalty, pain < Greek poinḗ penalty
Related forms
underpain, noun
unpaining, adjective
1–3. torture, misery, torment. Pain , ache , agony , anguish are terms for sensations causing suffering or torment. P ain and ache usually refer to physical sensations (except heartache ); agony and anguish may be physical or mental. P ain suggests a sudden sharp twinge: a pain in one's ankle. A che applies to a continuous pain, whether acute or dull: headache; muscular aches. A gony implies a continuous, excruciating, scarcely endurable pain: in agony from a wound. A nguish suggests not only extreme and long-continued pain, but also a feeling of despair. 2. pang, twinge, stitch. 4a. See care. 7. afflict, torment; trouble, grieve.
3. joy, delight. 7. please. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for pains
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The police have taken the matter in hand, and will spare no pains to discover the woman.

    The Lost Heir G. A. Henty
  • Until he has created love where there was none, and then gets it for his pains.

  • Each one had his panacea for all the aches and pains of his race.

  • Friends tried to reconcile them, but had their labor for their pains.

    Life On The Mississippi, Complete Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • The traveller had been at the pains of going a long way up-stairs to his sleeping-room to fetch his pocket-flask of brandy.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
British Dictionary definitions for pains


plural noun
care, trouble, or effort (esp in the phrases take pains, be at pains to)
painful sensations experienced during contractions in childbirth; labour pains


the sensation of acute physical hurt or discomfort caused by injury, illness, etc
emotional suffering or mental distress
on pain of, subject to the penalty of
(informal) Also called pain in the neck, (taboo) pain in the arse. a person or thing that is a nuisance
verb (transitive)
to cause (a person) distress, hurt, grief, anxiety, etc
(informal) to annoy; irritate
See also pains
Word Origin
C13: from Old French peine, from Latin poena punishment, grief, from Greek poinē penalty
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pains



late 13c., "punishment," especially for a crime; also "condition one feels when hurt, opposite of pleasure," from Old French peine "difficulty, woe, suffering, punishment, Hell's torments" (11c.), from Latin poena "punishment, penalty, retribution, indemnification" (in Late Latin also "torment, hardship, suffering"), from Greek poine "retribution, penalty, quit-money for spilled blood," from PIE *kwei- "to pay, atone, compensate" (see penal). The earliest sense in English survives in phrase on pain of death.

Phrase to give (someone) a pain "be annoying and irritating" is from 1908; localized as pain in the neck (1924) and pain in the ass (1934), though this last might have gone long unrecorded and be the original sense and the others euphemisms. Pains "great care taken (for some purpose)" is first recorded 1520s (in the singular in this sense, it is attested from c.1300). First record of pain-killer is from 1853.


c.1300, "to exert or strain oneself, strive; endeavor," from Old French pener (v.) "to hurt, cause pain," from peine, and from Middle English peine (n.); see pain (n.). Transitive meaning "cause pain; inflict pain" is from late 14c. That of "to cause sorrow, grief, or unhappiness" also is from late 14c. Related: Pained; paining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pains in Medicine

pain (pān)

  1. An unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional disorder.

  2. One of the uterine contractions occurring in childbirth.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for pains


Related Terms

feel no pain

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with pains


In addition to the idioms beginning with pain
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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