This is why you can't get one word giving an absolutely exact meaning:
Dukkha (adj. -- n.) [Sk. duḥkha fr. duḥ -- ka, an adj. forma- tion fr. prefix duḥ (see du). According to others an analogy formation after sukha, q. v.; Bdhgh (at Vism 494) expls dukkha as du+kha, where du=du1 and kha=ākāsa. See also def. at Vism 461.] A. (adj.) unpleasant, painful, causing misery (opp. sukha pleasant) Vin i.34; Dh 117. Lit. of vedanā (sensation) M i.59 (˚ŋ vedanaŋ vediyamāna, see also below iii.1 e); A ii.116=M. i.10 (sarīrikāhi vedanāhi dukkhāhi). <-> Fig. (fraught with pain, entailing sorrow or trouble) of kāmā D i.36 (=paṭipīḷan -- aṭṭhena DA i.121); Dh 186 (=bahudukkha DhA iii.240); of jāti M i.185 (cp. ariyasacca, below B I.); in combn dukkhā paṭipadā dandhābhiññā D iii.106; Dhs 176; Nett 7, 112 sq., cp. A ii.149 sq. ekanta˚ very painful, giving much pain S ii.173; iii.69. dukkhaŋ (adv.) with difficulty, hardly J i.215.
B. (nt.; but pl. also dukkhā, e. g. S i.23; Sn 728; Dh 202, 203, 221. Spelling dukha (after sukha) at Dh 83, 203). There is no word in English covering the same ground as Dukkha does in Pali. Our modern words are too specialised, too limited, and usually too strong. Sukha & dukkha are ease and dis-ease (but we use disease in another sense); or wealth and ilth from well & ill (but we have now lost ilth); or wellbeing and ill-ness (but illness means something else in English). We are forced, therefore, in translation to use half synonyms, no one of which is exact. Dukkha is equally mental & physical. Pain is too predominantly physical, sorrow too exclusively mental, but in some connections they have to be used in default of any more exact rendering. Discomfort, suffering, ill, and trouble can occasionally be used in certain connections. Misery, distress, agony, affliction and woe are never right. They are all much too strong & are only mental (see Mrs. Rh. D. Bud. Psy. 83 -- 86, quoting Ledi Sadaw).I. Main Points in the Use of the Word
-- The recognition of the fact of Dukkha stands out as essential in early Buddhism. In the very first discourse the four socalled Truths or Facts (see saccāni) deal chiefly with dukkha. The first of the four gives certain universally recognised cases of it, & then sums them up in short. The five groups (of physical & mental qualities which make an individual) are accompanied by ill so far as those groups are fraught with āsavas and grasping. (Pañc' upādānakkhandhā pi dukkhā; cp. S iii.47). The second Sacca gives the cause of this dukkha (see Taṇhā). The third enjoins the removal of this taṇhā. And the fourth shows the way, or method, of doing so (see Magga). These ariyasaccāni are found in two places in the older books Vin i.10=S v.421 (with addition of soka -- parideva . . . etc. [see below] in some MSS). Comments on this passage, or part of it, occur S iii.158, 159; with expln of each term (+soka) D i.189; iii.136, 277; M i.185; A i.107; Sn p. 140; Nd2 under sankhārā; It 17 (with dukkhassa atikkama for nirodha), 104, 105; Ps i.37; ii.204, 147; Pug 15, 68; Vbh 328; Nett 72, 73. It is referred to as dukkha, samudaya, nirodha, magga at Vin i.16, 18, 19; D iii.227; Nd2 304iib; as āsavānaŋ khaya -- ñāṇa at D i.83; Vin iii.5; as sacca No. 1+paṭiccasamuppāda at A i.176 sq. (+soka˚); in a slightly diff. version of No. 1 (leaving out appiyehi & piyehi, having soka˚ instead) at D ii.305; and in the formula catunnaŋ ariyasaccānaŋ ananubodhā etc. at D ii.90=Vin i.230.II. Characterisation in Detail.
-- 1. A further specification of the 3rd of the Noble Truths is given in the Paṭicca -- samuppāda (q.v.), which analyses the links & stages of the causal chain in their interdependence as building up (anabolic=samudaya) &, after their recognition as causes, breaking down (katabolic=nirodha) the dukkha -- synthesis, & thus constitutes the Metabolism of kamma; discussed e. g. at Vin 1; D ii.32 sq. =S ii.2 sq.; S ii.17, 20, 65= Nd2 680i.c; S iii.14; M i.266 sq.; ii.38; A i.177; mentioned e. g. at A i.147; M i.192 sq., 460; It 89 (=dukkhassa antakiriyā). <-> 2. Dukkha as one of the 3 qualifications of the sankhārā (q. v.), viz. anicca, d., anattā, evanescence, ill, nonsoul: S i.188; ii.53 (yad aniccaŋ taŋ dukkhaŋ); iii.112 (id.) iii.67, 180, 222; iv.28, 48, 129 sq.; 131 sq. -- rūpe anicc' ânupassī (etc. with dukkh' & anatt') S iii.41. anicca -- saññā, dukkha˚ etc. D iii.243; A iii.334, cp. iv.52 sq. -- sabbe sankhārā aniccā etc. Nd2 under sankhārā. -- 3. Specification of Dukkha. The Niddesa gives a characteristic description of all that comes under the term dukkha. It employs one stereotyped explanation (therefore old & founded on scholastic authority) (Nd2 304i.), & one expln (304iii.) peculiar to itself & only applied to Sn 36. The latter defines & illustrates dukkha exclusively as suffering & torment incurred by a person as punishment, inflicted on him either by the king or (after death) by the guardians of purgatory (niraya -- pālā; see detail under niraya, & cp. below III. 2 b). -- The first expln (304i.) is similar in kind to the definition of d. as long afterwards given in the Sānkhya system (see Sānkhya -- kārikā -- bhāṣya of Gauḍapāda to stanza 1) & classifies the various kinds of dukkha in the foll. groups: (a) all suffering caused by the fact of being born, & being through one's kamma tied to the consequent states of transmigration; to this is loosely attached the 3 fold division of d. as dukkha˚, sankhāra˚, vipariṇāma˚ (see below III. 1 c); -- (b) illnesses & all bodily states of suffering (cp. ādhyātmikaŋ dukkhaŋ of Sānkhya k.); -- (c) pain & (bodily) discomfort through outward circumstances, as extreme climates, want of food, gnat -- bites etc. (cp. ādhibhautikaŋ & ādhidaivikaŋ d. of Sk.); -- (d) (Mental) distress & painful states caused by the death of one's beloved or other misfortunes to friends or personal belongings (cp. domanassa). -- This list is concluded by a scholastic characterisation of these var. states as conditioned by kamma, implicitly due to the afflicted person not having found his "refuge," i. e. salvation from these states in the 8 fold Path (see above B I.).III. General Application, & various views regarding dukkha
. -- 1. As simple sensation
(: pain) & related to other terms: (a) principally a vedanā, sensation, in particular belonging to the body (kāyika), or physical pain (opp. cetasika dukkha mental ill: see domanassa). Thus defined as kāyikaŋ d. at D ii.306 (cp. the distinction between śarīraŋ & mānasaŋ dukkhaŋ in Sānkhya philosophy) M i.302; S v.209 (in def. of dukkhindriya); A ii.143 (sarīrikā vedanā dukkhā); Nett 12 (duvidhaŋ d.: kāyikaŋ=dukkhaŋ; cetasikaŋ= domanassaŋ); Vism 165 (twofold), 496 (dukkhā aññaŋ na bādhakaŋ), 499 (seven divisions), 503 (kāyika); SnA 119 (sukhaŋ vā dukkhaŋ vā Sn 67=kāyikaŋ sātāsātaŋ). Bdhgh. usually paraphrases d. with vaṭṭadukkha, e. g. at SnA 44, 212, 377, 505. -- (b) Thus to be understood as physical pain in combn dukkha+ domanassa "pain & grief," where d. can also be taken as the gen. term & dom˚ as specification, e. g. in cetasikaŋ dukkhaŋ domanassaŋ paṭisaŋvedeti A i.157, 216; iv.406; S ii.69; rāgajan d ˚ŋ dom ˚ŋ paṭisaŋvedeti A ii.149; kāmûpasaŋhitaŋ d ˚ŋ dom ˚ŋ A iii.207; d ˚ŋ dom ˚ŋ paṭisaŋvediyati S iv.343. Also as cpd. dukkhadomanassānaŋ atthangamāya A iii.326, & freq. in formula soka -- parideva -- d˚ -- domanass -- upāyāsā (grief & sorrow, afflictions of pain & misery, i. e. all kinds of misery) D i.36 (arising fr. kāmā); M ii.64; A v.216 sq.; It 89 etc. (see above B I. 4). Cp. also the combn dukkhī dummano "miserable and dejected" S ii.282. -- (c) dukkha as "feeling of pain" forms one of the three dukkhatā or painful states, viz. d. -- dukkhatā (painful sensation caused by bodily pain), sankhāra˚ id. having its origin in the sankhārā, vipariṇāma˚, being caused by change S iv.259; v.56; D iii.216; Nett 12. (d) Closely related in meaning is ahita "that which is not good or profitable," usually opposed to sukha & hita. It is freq. in the ster. expression "hoti dīgharattaŋ ahitāya dukkhāya" for a long time it is a source of discomfort & pain A i.194 sq.; M i.332 D iii.157; Pug 33. Also in phrases anatthāya ahitāya dukkhāya D iii.246 & akusalaŋ . . . ahitāya dukkhāya saŋvattati A i.58. -- (e) Under vedanā as sensation are grouped the 3: sukhaŋ (or sukhā ved.) pleasure (pleasant sensation), dukkhaŋ pain (painful sens.), adukkham -- asukhaŋ indifference (indifferent sens.), the last of which is the ideal state of the emotional habitus to be gained by the Arahant (cp. upekhā & nibbidā). Their rôle is clearly indicated in the 4th jhāna: sukhassa pahānā dukkhassa pahānā pubbe va somanassadomanassānaŋ atthangamā adukkham -- asukhaŋ upekhā parisuddhiŋ catutthaŋ jhānaŋ upasampajja viharati (see jhāna). -- As contents of vedanā: sukhaŋ vediyati dukkhaŋ v. adukkham -- asukhaŋ v. tasmā vedanā ti S iii.86, 87; cp. S ii.82 (vedayati). tisso vedanā: sukha, d˚, adukkham -- asukhā˚ D iii.275; S ii.53; iv.114 sq., 207, 223 sq., cp. M i.396; A i.173; iv.442; It 46, 47. yaŋ kiñc' āyaŋ purisa -- puggalo paṭisaŋvedeti sukhaŋ vā d ˚ŋ vā a ˚ŋ vā sabban taŋ pubbe katahetū ti=one's whole life -- experience is caused by one's former kamma A i.173=M ii.217. -- The combn (as complementary pair) of sukha+dukkha is very freq. for expressing the varying fortunes of life & personal experience as pleasure & pain, e. g. n' âlam aññamaññassa sukhāya vā dukkhāya vā sukhadukkhāya vā D i.56=S iii.211. Thus under the 8 "fortunes of the world" (loka dhammā) with lābha (& a˚), yasa (a˚), pasaŋsā (nindā), sukha (dukkha) at D iii.260; Nd2 55. Regarded as a thing to be avoided in life: puriso jīvitukāmo . . . sukhakāmo dukkha -- paṭikkūlo S iv.172, 188. -- In similar contexts: D i.81≈; iii.51, 109, 187; S ii.22, 39; iv.123 sq.; A ii.158 etc. (cp. sukha).2. As complex state (suffering) & its valuation in the light of the Doctrine: (a) any worldly sensation, pleasure & experience may be a source of discomfort
(see above, I.; cp. esp. kāma & bhava) Ps i.11 sq. (specified as jāti etc.); dukkhaŋ=mahabbhayaŋ S i.37; bhārādānaŋ dukkhaŋ loke bhāra -- nikkhepanaŋ sukhaŋ (pain is the great weight) S iii.26; kāmānaŋ adhivacanaŋ A iii.310; iv.289; cp. A iii.410 sq. (with kāmā, vedanā, saññā, āsavā, kamma, dukkhaŋ). -- (b) ekanta˚ (extreme pain) refers to the suffering of sinful beings in Niraya, & it is open to conjecture whether this is not the first & orig. meaning of dukkha; e. g. M i.74; A ii.231 (vedanaŋ vediyati ekanta -- d˚ŋ seyyathā pi sattā nerayikā); see ekanta. In the same sense: . . . upenti Roruvaŋ ghoraŋ cirarattaŋ dukkhaŋ anubhavanti S i.30; niraya -- dukkha Sn 531; pecca d˚ŋ nigacchati Sn 278, 742; anubhonti d˚ŋ kaṭuka -- pphalāni Pv i.1110 (=āpāyikaŋ d˚ŋ PvA 60); PvA 67; mahādukkhaŋ anubhavati PvA 43, 68, 107 etc. atidukkhaŋ PvA 65; dukkhato pete mocetvā PvA 8. -- (c) to suffer pain, to experience unpleasantness etc. is expressed in foll. terms: dukkhaŋ anubhavati (only w. ref. to Niraya, see b); anveti Dh 1 (=kāyikaŋ cetasikaŋ vipāka -- dukkhaŋ anugacchati DhA i.24), upeti Sn 728; carati S i.210; nigacchati M i.337; Sn 278, 742; paṭisaŋvedeti M i.313 (see above); passati S i.132 (jāto dukkhāni passati: whoever is born experiences woe); vaḍḍheti S ii.109; viharati A i.202; ii.95; iii.3; S iv.78 (passaddhiyā asati d˚ŋ v. dukkhino cittaŋ na samādhiyati); vedayati, vediyati, vedeti etc. see above III. 1 e; sayati A i.137. -- (d) More specific reference to the cause of suffering & its removal by means of enlightenment: (a) Origin (see also above I. & II. 1): dukkhe loko patiṭṭhito S i.40; yaŋ kiñci dukkhaŋ sambhoti sabbaŋ sankhāra -- paccayā Sn 731; ye dukkhaŋ vaḍḍhenti te na parimuccanti jātiyā etc. S ii.109; d˚ŋ ettha bhiyyo Sn 61, 584; yo paṭhavī -- dhātuŋ abhinandati dukkhaŋ so abhin˚ Si i.174; taṇhā d ˚ssa samudayo etc. Nett 23 sq.; as result of sakkāyadiṭṭhi S iv.147, of chanda S i.22 of upadhi S ii.109, cp. upadhīnidānā pabhavanti dukkhā Sn 728; d˚ŋ eva hi sambhoti d˚ŋ tiṭṭhati veti ca S i.135. -- (b) Salvation from Suffering (see above I.): kathaŋ dukkhā pamuccati Sn 170; dukkhā pamuccati S i.14; iii.41, 150; iv.205; v.451; na hi putto pati vā pi piyo d ˚ā pamocaye yathā saddhamma -- savanaŋ dukkhā moceti pāṇinaŋ S i,210; na appatvā lokantaŋ dukkhā atthi pamocanaŋ A ii.49. Kammakkhayā . . . sabbaŋ d˚ŋ nijjiṇṇaŋ bhavissati M ii.217, cp. i.93. kāme pahāya . . . d˚ŋ na sevetha anatthasaŋhitaŋ S i.12=31; rūpaŋ (etc.) abhijānaŋ bhabbo d -- ˚kkhayāya S iii.27; iv.89; d˚ŋ pariññāya sakhettavatthuŋ Tathāgato arahati pūraḷāsaŋ Sn 473. pajahati d˚ŋ Sn 789, 1056. dukkhassa samudayo ca atthangamo ca S ii.72; iii.228 sq.; iv.86, 327. -- dukkhass' antakaro hoti M i.48; A iii.400 sq.; It 18; antakarā bhavāmase Sn 32; antaŋ karissanti Satthu sāsana -- kārino A ii.26; d ˚parikkhīṇaŋ S ii.133; akiñcanaŋ nânupatanti dukkhā S i.23; sankhārānaŋ nirodhena n' atthi d˚assa sambhavo Sn 731. -- muniŋ d˚assa pārayuŋ S i.195=Nd2 136v; antagū 'si pāragū d˚assa Sn 539. -- sang' ātiko maccujaho nirūpadhi pahāya d˚ŋ apunabbhavāya S iv.158; ucchinnaŋ mūlaŋ d˚assa, n' atthi dāni punabbhavo Vin i.231= D ii.91.
-- âdhivāha bringing or entailing pain S iv.70; -- anubhavana suffering pain or undergoing punishment (in Niraya) J iv.3; -- antagū one who has conquered suffering Sn 401; -- âbhikiṇṇa beset with pain, full of distress It 89; -- âsahanatā non -- endurance of ills Vism 325. -- indriya the faculty of experiencing pain, painful sensation S v.209, 211; Dhs 556, 560; Vbh 15, 54, 71; -- udraya causing or yielding pain, resulting in ill, yielding distress M i.415 sq.; A i.97; iv.43 (+dukkhavipāka); v.117 (dukh˚), 243; J iv.398; of kamma: Ps i.80; ii.79; Pv i.1110 (so read for dukkhandriya, which is also found at PvA 60); DhA ii.40 (˚uddaya); -- ûpadhāna causing pain Dh 291; -- ûpasama the allayment of pain or alleviation of suffering, only in phrase (aṭṭhangiko maggo) d -- ûpasama -- gāmino S iii.86; It 106; Sn 724=Dh 191; -- (m)esin wishing ill, malevolent J iv.26; -- otiṇṇa fallen into misery S iii.93; M i.460; ii.10; -- kāraṇa labour or trials to be undergone as punishment DhA iii.70 (see Dh 138, 139 & cp. dasa1 B 1 b); -- khandha the aggregate of suffering, all that is called pain or affliction (see above B II. 1) S ii.134; iii.93; M i.192 sq.; 200 sq.; etc.; -- khaya the destruction of pain, the extinction of ill M i.93; ii.217 (kammakkhayā d -- kkhayo); S iii.27; Sn 732. Freq. in phrase (nīyāti or hoti) sammā -- d -- kkhayāya "leads to the complete extinction of ill," with ref. to the Buddha's teaching or the higher wisdom, e. g. of brahmacariyā S ii.24; of paññā D iii.268; A iii.152 sq.; of ariyā diṭṭhi D iii.264=A iii.132; of sikkhā A ii.243; of dhamma M i.72; -- dhamma the principle of pain, a painful object, any kind of suffering (cp. ˚khandha) D iii.88; S iv.188 (˚ānaŋ samudayañ ca atthagamañ ca yathābhūtaŋ pajānāti); It 38 (nirodha ˚anaŋ); -- nidāna a source of pain M ii.223; Dhs 1059, 1136; -- nirodha the destruction of pain, the extinction of suffering (see above B II. 1) M i.191; ii.10; A iii.410, 416; etc.; -- paṭikkūla averse to pain, avoiding unpleasantness, in combn sukhakāmo d -- p. S iv.172 (spelt ˚kulo), 188; M i.341; -- patta being in pain J vi.336; -- pareta afflicted by pain or misery S iii.93; It 89=A i.147; -- bhummi the soil of distress Dhs 985; -- vāca hurtful speech Pv i.32 (should probably be read duṭṭha˚); -- vipāka (adj.) having pain as its fruit, creating misery S ii.128; D iii.57, 229; A ii.172 (kamma); Ps ii.79 (id.); -- vepakka =˚vipāka Sn 537 (kamma); -- saññā the consciousness of pain Nett 27; -- samudaya the rise or origin of pain or suffering (opp. ˚nirodha; see above B II. 1) S iv.37; M i.191; ii.10; iii.267; Vbh 107 (taṇhā ca avasesā ca kilesā: ayaŋ vuccati d -- s.); -- samphassa contact with pain M i.507; Dhs 648; f. abstr. ˚tā Pug 33; -- seyya an uncomfortable couch DhA iv.8.http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... li.1777832