1 of 2


ailed; ailing; ails

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.


2 of 2


: ailment
winter ails

Examples of ail in a Sentence

Noun half of the staff is out sick with the usual wintertime ails
Recent Examples on the Web
In 2014, the ailing Sahara One asked several senior executives to resign. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 15 Nov. 2023 Once inside, the focuses switches from Fernando and his ailing mother to our protagonists, Whitney Siegel (Stone) and her husband, Asher (Fielder), who are sitting across from him and making a great show of listening sympathetically. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2023 New modeling suggests that by burning less fossil fuels, the ailing snowpack will get a two-for-one benefit: lower temperatures on the snow’s surface and in the surrounding air. WIRED, 23 Oct. 2023 Bain’s leaders put him in charge of a new investment firm, Bain Capital, which identified ailing companies to invest in, overhauled them from within, then sold them for profit. Michael Luo, The New Yorker, 23 Oct. 2023 On Tuesday, the Olympic gold-winning medalist's daughter McKenna Kelley asked for prayers and donations for her ailing mother on her Instagram story. Gina Martinez, CBS News, 10 Oct. 2023 If Linksys’ cognitive system fails to fix what’s ailing it, though, users can flag a problem with its support app. Wes Davis, The Verge, 26 Oct. 2023 The ailing entertainment giant needs to transfer that sum by Dec. 1 to Hulu’s 33% minority owner, Comcast, as stipulated contractually under a put option that the NBCUniversal parent exercised on Wednesday. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 2 Nov. 2023 Queen Elizabeth was to be a relaxing, wildlife-watching stop in Kenya during what was set to be a long tour while her ailing father, King George VI, rested back home in England. Stephanie Petit, Peoplemag, 31 Oct. 2023
The Employer has paid the Employee all payments due through September 9, 2022 and ail stancard deductions and regular payroll tax withholdings have been made. Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel, 30 Sep. 2022 Overall, China’s box office continues to ail, with sizable pockets of cinemas across the country still closed as a COVID precaution and consumer activity suppressed by mass testing and a prevailing sense of caution. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 June 2022 Illinois’s fiscal ails have long revolved around its pension system for teachers and state workers. Shruti Singh,, 18 May 2020 By comparison, the U.S., the coronavirus’s new hotspot, earmarked $2 trillion in March to help businesses, hospitals, and workers counter the economic ails of COVID-19, while the Fed slashed interest rates to nearly zero. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, 20 Apr. 2020 This social pressure only worked, though, to the extent that patients could afford to leave normal life behind, and ail in isolation from their communities. Annika Neklason, The Atlantic, 21 Mar. 2020 El Paso j ail records show a Patrick Wood Crusius was booked Sunday on state charges of capital murder. Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug. 2019 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, 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, 11 May 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ail.' 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 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

First Known Use


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


13th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near ail

Cite this Entry

“Ail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to be the matter with : trouble
what ails you?
: to have something the matter
especially : to suffer ill health
has been ailing for years

Medical Definition


transitive verb
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on ail

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!