Trials and Tribulations – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you been dealing with a seemingly endless bout of bad luck? Maybe things just can’t seem to go right but you refuse to give up? If so, this is what many old-timers refer to as trials and tribulations.

If you are curious about this turn of phrase, you are in the right place.

This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The phrase trials and tribulations simply mean problems, difficulties, and tests. The phrase is commonly used in a religious setting but is also used by older generations in regular conversation. Anyone who is said to be facing a continuous number of hurdles, problems, or setbacks will often be referred to as undergoing trials and tribulations in their life.

Any type of difficult experience can be considered trials and tribulations. The idiom can be used to explain a test of one’s mettle that will need to be performed. It can also be used to mean that one’s fortitude and worth will be put to a trial by fire. Overall, regardless of how the phrase is used, it means that there are struggles, problems, or hurdles that will appear along the way during one’s journey.

More information can be found in the video (here).

Example Usage

“Certain life choices will always result in having to deal with an overwhelming number of trials and tribulations”.

“Angie seems to just keep getting hammered with a myriad of trials and tribulations, she just can’t catch a break”.

“Lord, please help me overcome the trials and tribulations that I’m facing in my life”.

“There is always a rainbow at the end of any journey through trials and tribulations”.

“It is important to remember that trials and tribulations don’t last forever, keep your head high until you get through them”.

Origin of Trials and Tribulations

The exact origin of the phrase trials and tribulations is not exactly known, however, it started appearing in text in the 19th century. It has been found in the Bible in several translations. It is often referred to when explaining long-term suffering or a specific test of one’s faith. The phrase is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, which is why many people assume that the phrase originated from the Christian Faith.

However, the phrase trials and tribulations have also been found in several works that have no religious affiliations. They have been found in historical documents, war records, and even in poetic prose dating back to the 19th century.

Phrases Similar to Trials and Tribulations

  • A trial
  • Torment and agony
  • Tough time
  • Hard time of it
  • Problems and troubles
  • Down on their luck
  • Challenges and issues
  • A rough ride
  • Adversity

Phrases Opposite to Trials and Tribulations

  • An easy ride
  • Breezy
  • Simple as butter
  • Blessed
  • Smooth ride

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The proper saying is trials and tribulations.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Trials and Tribulations

Being that the idiom trials and tribulations are not as common as they used to be, it is easy to use it in the wrong way. Some ways that trials and tribulations are used incorrectly are:

  • I like experiencing trials and tribulations, it helps me to get ahead in my particular sport.
  • I am not sure what type of trials and tribulations to expect from the upcoming exam.
  • Going through the act of trials and tribulations is easier than you think.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Trials and Tribulations

  • Running your own business is fraught with trials and tribulations, but the end result is usually well worth it.
  • The university faced so many trials and tribulations while trying to get the Covid program up and running.
  • Patients coming in for genetic profiles before marriage can expect to be faced with a range of trials and tribulations before choosing to conceive.
  • Living through war is only the first step, there are years worth of trials and tribulations that will follow once peace is achieved.

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