Being stuck in standstill traffic can feel like purgatory, but this brief spell of unpleasantness is nothing compared to the misery endured by souls waiting to get into heaven, which is the original meaning of the word.

Purgatory comes from a Late Latin verb meaning “to cleanse” — purge shares the same root. In Roman Catholic doctrine, souls atoned for past sins in purgatory before entering heaven. In fact, for centuries, purgatory was often regarded as an actual physical place. Today, if you say you are in purgatory, you feel stuck or not able to continue towards a goal. High school might feel like purgatory because even though you’re finished with your carefree childhood, you don’t have the freedoms of adulthood yet.

Definitions of purgatory
  1. noun

    (theology) in Roman Catholic theology the place where those who have died in a state of grace undergo limited torment to expiate their sins

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    type of:

    fictitious place, imaginary place, mythical place

    a place that exists only in imagination; a place said to exist in fictional or religious writings

  2. noun

    a temporary condition of torment or suffering

    purgatory of drug abuse”
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    type of:


    a complex or critical or unusual difficulty

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