af·​flict ə-ˈflikt How to pronounce afflict (audio)
afflicted; afflicting; afflicts

transitive verb

: to cause pain or suffering to : to distress so severely as to cause persistent suffering or anguish
people afflicted with arthritis
a region afflicted by hunger and poverty
: humble
Choose the Right Synonym for afflict

afflict, try, torment, torture, rack mean to inflict on a person something that is hard to bear.

afflict is a general term and applies to the causing of pain or suffering or of acute annoyance, embarrassment, or any distress.

ills that afflict the elderly

try suggests imposing something that strains the powers of endurance or of self-control.

children often try their parents' patience

torment suggests persecution or the repeated inflicting of suffering or annoyance.

a horse tormented by flies

torture adds the implication of causing unbearable pain or suffering.

tortured by a sense of guilt

rack stresses straining or wrenching.

a body racked by pain

Examples of afflict in a Sentence

The disease afflicts an estimated two million people every year. the South was afflicted by a severe drought
Recent Examples on the Web Share [Findings] A fungal parasite that afflicts the reproductive organs of millipedes was named in honor of Twitter. Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, Harper's Magazine, 17 July 2024 Those afflicted, according to one estimate, can endure almost four years of disability, cumulatively, over their lives. Tribune News Service, The Mercury News, 11 July 2024 Tracey Jones, a resident of 2569 Seventh Ave., says her apartment has been afflicted with leaks that led to mold and disgusting odors. Téa Kvetenadze, New York Daily News, 16 June 2024 Such criticism still exists, but the fact that best-of lists have colonized the early summer marks, in a small but important way, the exhaustion that now afflicts media and their audience alike. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 10 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for afflict 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'afflict.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English afflihten "to excite, become distressed," probably verbal derivative of affliht, aflyght "disturbed, upset," borrowed from Latin afflīctus, past participle of afflīgere "to knock or strike down, ruin, distress severely," from ad- ad- + flīgere "to strike down" — more at profligate entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of afflict was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near afflict

Cite this Entry

“Afflict.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


af·​flict ə-ˈflikt How to pronounce afflict (audio)
: to cause suffering or unhappiness to

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