Most commonly, the word trial refers to a legal process wherein a person’s guilt or innocence is determined. But it’s also used more generally to talk about particularly trying or distressing experiences that test one’s patience and resolve—and that’s where the synonym ordeal comes into play. An ordeal is any extremely severe or trying test, experience, or trial—or, more generally an unpleasant experience that one is happy to put behind them! However, the origins of ordeal are closer to the legal sense of trial than you might think. When ordeal entered English, it referred to a primitive form of trial to determine guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to fire, poison, or other serious danger, the result being regarded as a divine or preternatural judgment. Though nowadays, ordeal is more likely to be used of a harrowing experience at the DMV.