This study was designed to establish a foundation for the further development of a pain assessment tool for use in clinical practice. It was earlier reported that there existed a significant difference in the intensity of the words pain, ache and hurt and that each of these concepts had their own specific sensory and affective word descriptors. This study was designed to: 1 find out if the above results could be verified by using subjects with a different background from those included in the previous study; 2 determine the intensity of word descriptors; and 3 determine if patients, nurses and nursing students use the same word descriptors to describe pain-like experiences. Pain assessment tools used were the McGill Pain Questionnaire, a visual analogue scale and a pain, ache and hurt questionnaire. The results of the earlier reported study were confirmed. In addition, a significant difference was found in intensity of the word descriptors. Patients, nurses and nursing students used basically the same word descriptor to describe pain-like experiences. The sensory word descriptors (crushing, sharp, tearing, cutting, penetrating, gnawing, dull, pulling, sore, stinging, pricking and pinching) and the affective word descriptors (dreadful, torturing, killing, unbearable, terrifying, suffocating, exhausting, unhappy, troublesome, annoying, irritating and fearful) are suggested as a foundation upon which a pain assessment tool could be developed for use in clinical practice.