The word 'painstaking' has a such entry in merriam-webster.

Does this word have a positive meaning or a negative one?

2 Answers 2


This is the Merriam-Webster entry for painstaking:

: taking pains : expending, showing, or involving diligent care and effort
// painstaking research
// painstaking tasks
// painstaking accuracy

Neither diligent care and effort nor painstaking have any positive or negative meaning. Painstaking itself is neutral, but you can use it in the context of something that is either positive or negative.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says the following about painstaking:

1550s, paynes taking, "assiduous and careful labor" (n.), 1690s, "characterized by close or conscientious application, laborious and careful" (adj.), from plural of pain (n.) in the "exertion, effort" sense + present participle of take (v.). Related: Painstakingly.

As such, it is not related to the sense of pain that means discomfort or distress, but to its other, plural, sense:

3 pains plural : trouble, care, or effort taken to accomplish something
// was at pains to reassure us

  • Thank @Jason Bassford! It's a complete description. You should have your own Dictionary. :) . and; According to Jackson_ITGuy12, answer below, Can I assume that 'painstaking' is neutral by nature, but is usually used in a negative sense? Thanks you so much...
    – elyar abad
    May 24, 2020 at 15:32
  • 1
    @elyarabad I would not say that it's usually used in a negative sense. The finest of artisans take pleasure in their painstaking approach to their craft. There is no clear interpretation if the sentence as a whole is something negative or positive, generally positive with a negative component, or simply a statement of fact (neutral). When I hear painstaking, I think careful, which, to me, is, if anything other than neutral, actually positive. But that's just my personal association with the word. May 24, 2020 at 15:40
  • That' an answer, thanks!
    – elyar abad
    May 25, 2020 at 15:43

The way that I typically use the word "painstaking" is in a negative connotation (that is, meaning).

For instance, "I put hours of painstaking work into that job, all to get fired?"


Thanks, @Fivesideddice.

I use the word in a negative context, however the word itself is describing the work I put in, so the adjective is being used in a positive manner.

  • 2
    Maybe you mainly use the word in a negative context, but is the word itself used in a negative manner there? May 24, 2020 at 4:35
  • 1
    I guess not. It’s describing the work being put in, work you’re defending. I’m amending my answer. May 24, 2020 at 4:37
  • Dear @Jackson_ITGuy12! Since your bio says you're a native speaker of English; Can I assume that 'painstaking' is neutral by nature, but is usually used in a negative sense? -thanks!!!!!
    – elyar abad
    May 24, 2020 at 15:29
  • @elyarabad That sounds right. It’s neutral in nature, but typically used in a negative sense. May 24, 2020 at 20:32

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