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

Example Sentences

The disease afflicts an estimated two million people every year. the South was afflicted by a severe drought
Recent Examples on the Web Jennings and Schuster agree that the data can’t answer every question about how to tackle the disparities afflicting Greater Boston’s Black residents. Tiana Woodard,, 6 Apr. 2023 Perreo 101 divorces itself from the white-washed narrative that periodically afflicts reggaeton, becoming a refreshing and in-demand space for knowledge-sharing that has led to speaking tours with stops at Ivy League institutions like Harvard, Dartmouth, and Princeton. Marjua Estevez,, 28 Mar. 2023 The findings in Louisville, released amid a backlash against a reform movement galvanized by police killings and beatings of Black people, served as a reminder of the dysfunction that still afflicts law enforcement agencies. Glenn Thrush, New York Times, 8 Mar. 2023 But, to be fair, Juneau lies at the warmer end of the state and doesn’t tend to experience the same blisteringly cold winter weather that can afflict places farther north like Anchorage or Fairbanks, where using heat pumps could be less cost-effective. WIRED, 20 Feb. 2023 Share [Findings] A fungal parasite that afflicts the reproductive organs of millipedes was named in honor of Twitter. Lauren Oyler, Harpers Magazine, 26 Apr. 2023 These same worries afflict households in Illinois, Louisiana, West Virginia and other spots around the United States where families live near manufacturing facilities that make or use these cancer-causing chemicals. Eric Lipton, New York Times, 5 May 2023 Live As many communities across the United States struggle with mass shootings, malicious actors are increasingly targeting schools with false reports of shootings, using the fear of gun violence and 911 calls to afflict terror about another potentially deadly incident, experts told ABC News. Peter Charalambous, ABC News, 25 Apr. 2023 The flip side of this growing recognition is that long COVID, a chronic disorder from a preventable communicable virus, will continue to afflict more people. Larry Buhl, USA TODAY, 21 Apr. 2023 See More

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 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on afflict

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