\ ˈāl How to pronounce ail (audio) \
ailed; ailing; ails

Definition of ail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

: to give physical or emotional pain, discomfort, or trouble to His back has been ailing him. It's good for what ails you. What's ailing you?

intransitive verb

: to have something the matter an ailing economy especially : to suffer ill health She has been ailing for years.



Definition of ail (Entry 2 of 2)

: ailment winter ails

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Examples of ail in a Sentence

Noun half of the staff is out sick with the usual wintertime ails
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Krug ailing Torey Krug caught the bug working its way through the Bruins’ dressing room and was termed a game-time decision. Matt Porter,, "David Backes gets back on the ice," 9 Jan. 2020 Josie and Kip have a thriving business in dealing painkillers to the physically and emotionally ailing members of their community. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Inherit the Viper': Film Review," 9 Jan. 2020 Long after one game, Davis, then ailing and using a walker, confronted this sportswriter about a column. Scott Ostler,, "Raiders left Oakland Coliseum forever, but Al Davis’ spirit lingers," 28 Dec. 2019 The retailers have been ailing for years, battered by digital competition, the decline of foot traffic and a lack of innovation in stores. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "These retailers are facing the fight for their lives in 2020: Sears, Forever 21, Pier 1," 27 Dec. 2019 The reality, though, is that James is ailing anew as his 35th birthday approaches. Marc Stein, New York Times, "Instead of a Merry Christmas, Maybe LeBron Will Have a Happy Birthday," 26 Dec. 2019 With starters Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor ailing, Ward came up with seven catches for 61 yards, including the game-winning touchdown to beat Washington. Kevin Cusick, Twin Cities, "The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 16: Last-minute moves," 22 Dec. 2019 From Barton’s perspective, who deserves the benefit of the doubt given his typically honest assessments, there’s a silver lining to what ailed Jokic on Tuesday night. Mike Singer, The Denver Post, "Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic admits to struggles in wake of Lakers loss: “I cannot make shots”," 4 Dec. 2019 Those in power have realized that blaming their political opponents for every ill that ails their countries makes for good politics. Rafael Romo, CNN, "Five keys to understanding Latin America's turmoil," 3 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Apple’s smartphone shipments in China fell 20% in the quarter ended December from a year earlier, according to International Data Corp. Tepid iPhone sales aren't all that ail Apple in China. Stella Yifan Xie, WSJ, "Apple to Chinese Consumers: Buy a New iPhone for Under $30 a Month, Interest Free," 21 Feb. 2019 Brian Dennehy is Irina’s ailing elder brother, Sorin, although Dennehy, at seventy-nine, still looks too bearishly robust to ail. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“First Reformed” and “The Seagull”," 11 May 2018 The pitch inherently presumes a technologically advanced society, one where medicine has cured our physical ails. Will Nevin,, "TBT #22: Join a 'Cold War,' take a 'Void Trip'," 26 Dec. 2017 Normally served on the street, ya dong’s herbal powers are said to cure bodily ails. Natalie B. Compton, GQ, "The Best Bars in Bangkok, as Told by Locals," 1 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ail


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ail


Middle English eilen, eilien "to trouble, afflict, affect (with animate or inanimate agent), be troubled, affected," going back to Old English eglan, eglian "to torment, afflict (with animate or inanimate agent)," going back to Germanic *agljan- (whence also Norwegian egle "to bait, goad, heckle," Danish dialect [Jutland] egle "to goad," [Bornholm] ägla "to scold," Gothic agljan, translating Greek bláptein "to harm, hurt"), of uncertain origin

Note: The Germanic etymon has been compared with an assortment of words inside and outside Germanic, most immediately and unarguably with Old English egle "grievous, painful, loathsome, horrible," Gothic agls, attested only as neuter singular agl, translating Greek aischrós "causing shame, disgraceful," and Gothic aglo, translating Greek thlípsis "tribulation." These have been compared further with Sanskrit agháḥ "evil, bad," Avestan aγa-, and Greek áchnymai, achnýnai "to grieve, lament," áchos "pain, distress." All these have been taken as progeny of an Indo-European base *h2egh-, hypothetically "distress, fear," connected further with Old English ege "fear, terror," Gothic agis, Old Norse agi (see awe entry 1). However, the semantic link between the basic Germanic set (exemplified by Old English eglan and egle) and the other words is tenuous.


Middle English eil "harm, trouble," perhaps in part going back to an Old English noun *ægl, *ægle, n-stem noun cognate with Gothic aglo "tribulation," derivative of a Germanic adjective agla-, whence Old English egle "grievous, painful"; in part noun derivative of Middle English eilen "to trouble, afflict" and eile "harmful, grievous" (continuing Old English egle) — more at ail entry 1

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Time Traveler for ail

Time Traveler

The first known use of ail was before the 12th century

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Statistics for ail

Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for ail


\ ˈāl How to pronounce ail (audio) \

Kids Definition of ail

1 : to be wrong with What ails you?
2 : to suffer especially with ill health She has been ailing for years.
\ ˈā(ə)l How to pronounce ail (audio) \

Medical Definition of ail

: to affect with a disease or physical or emotional pain or discomfort what ails the patient

intransitive verb

: to become affected with pain or discomfort : to suffer ill health was ailing from a cold

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More from Merriam-Webster on ail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ail

Spanish Central: Translation of ail

Nglish: Translation of ail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ail for Arabic Speakers

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