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I came across few sentences on the internet which are

  1. He was excruciatingly funny.
  2. He had an excruciating sense of humor.
  3. The seconds ticked by excruciatingly fast.
  4. He typed the letter with excruciatingly fast speed.
  5. Excruciating Beauty

Names of few books

  1. Excruciating bliss
  2. Excruciatingly Perfect Weddings
  3. The Fine and excruciating construction of the world

I am confused if some of the things above are meant as a complement.

I couldn't find any posisitve meanings attached to this word. So could you please explain if this word can be used with positive meaning. For example, in compliments etc

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  • Look the word up in a dictionary. The dictionary definition is unambiguous as to the meaning of the word.
    – user6951
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 11:46
  • @δοῦλος - what makes you think i didn't look up in a dictionary? Can't you READ live examples that i gave. If you don't know the answers or don't want to answer, then dont make presumptions and keep your obnoxious advice to yourself.
    – Leo
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 12:26
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    I assume you didn't look it up because you did not mention a specific difficulty you had with a certain definition. You also did not state you had looked it up. And specifically stating that you did is pretty much protocol when asking about the meaning of a word.
    – user6951
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 12:34
  • Leo - Hold on. If you've looked up the word, you owe it to the community to share what you found. That's a common courtesy on ELL, something that we often exhort users to do. @δοῦλος has made a fair request; ELL is not a dictionary lookup service, and if you don't share what you've found, it can feel that way. More here. I think your question could be improved by adding a meaning from the dictionary if you already looked it up; that would have been preferred over calling the comment "obnoxious".
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 12:35
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    What meanings did you find that seemed negative? What is your understanding of the word?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 13:58

2 Answers 2

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In some instances you can substitute the word "painful" for "excruciating":

He was excruciatingly funny

"translates" to

He was painfully funny

In this case that means that

He was so funny, I laughed so hard that it was painful

Which is a compliment. But in the very next example you give ("He had an excruciating sense of humor") it means the opposite: his sense of humour was painful (to have to hear) i.e. not very funny at all.

So as you can see, there is certain of nuance involved and the context is all-important. Someone who is painfully funny almost certainly does not have a painful sense of humour :)

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I will take a crack at this, Leo, because I think you misunderstand excruciating|ly in a way that a dictionary definition (e.g. "extreme or excessive") is not likely to clear up.

Excruciating|ly is not merely a synonym for "very" or "super" or "really" or "extremely":

He typed super fast.
He typed very fast.
He typed really fast.
He typed extremely fast.
*He typed excruciatingly fast.

Excruciating carries with it the idea that someone is feeling something. So that this sentence:

He typed excruciatingly fast.

would mean that the typing was either painful to watch for some reason, or painful to do. Both of those are not impossible, of course (the typist could be typing an order for a court marshal or a letter expelling a student from a school, say, as the person in question looked on) but you need to know that there is such an implication, and if the context does not support it, it would be a strange usage.

P.S. You might find a few people using the word excruciating as if it meant "very", pure and simple, but they could be using it unidiomatically.

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