1580s, "to torture" (trans.), from French agoniser (14c.) or directly from Medieval Latin agonizare "to labor, strive, contend," also "be at the point of death," from Greek agōnizesthai "contend in the struggle, contend for victory or a prize" (in reference to physical combat, stage competitions, lawsuits), from agōnia "a struggle for victory," originally "a struggle for victory in the games" (see agony). The intransitive sense of "suffer extreme physical pain" is recorded from 1660s; the mental sense of "to worry intensely" is from 1853. Related: Agonized; agonizing.
updated on September 15, 2022