\ˈāl \
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


half of the staff is out sick with the usual wintertime ails

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Next up was buying anything branded with Kodak, a now-ailing camera company that once signified your wealth with 61.6 percent accuracy. Fox News, "Owning an Apple iPhone is the best way to prove you're rich - replacing mustard," 10 July 2018 This is a powerful study in empathy as Bishop, the golden child born after her mother married, befriends and cares for her difficult, ailing, often unappreciative, outcast brother. Dannye Romine Powell, charlotteobserver, "Slipping into the sleeves of other lives: 8 memoirs to read now and 4 to watch for," 2 June 2018 There, the insurgents have all the same advantages that Trump exploited: energy, anger, the endless fascination of the media with the brashest among us, and the appeal of a broad-brush plan for fixing all that ails America. Ken Stern, The Hive, "“There Will Be a Backlash”: Will the Bernie Democrats Risk the House?," 14 May 2018 De la Pava himself can seem like an avenging angel, at least for those with a certain view of what ails contemporary American literature. Elif Batuman, The New Yorker, "A Public Defender’s Polyphonic Novel of Football and Social Justice," 30 Apr. 2018 The starting quarterback on the other side of the state is also ailing, as Auburn's Jarrett Stidham has missed all of spring after shoulder surgery. Creg Stephenson,, " All-Access: Tua's finger, Stidham's shoulder add some intrigue to spring practice," 23 Mar. 2018 Earlier this month in a speech at the Brookings Institute, Biden used Sanders as a foil -- promising an alternate vision for both the problem and the solution to what ails the country. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "Bernie Sanders is the most important 2020 candidate," 29 May 2018 But it was permeated with politics — from what ails the current system to what might effect change. Anthony Man,, "Emotional crowd at Fort Lauderdale rally demands gun restrictions," 18 Feb. 2018 Many Egyptian voters are hoping that Al-Sisi's inevitable victory will at least benefit the country’s ailing economy. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Low voter turnout for Uniform elections," 6 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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, from Old English eglan; akin to Goth agljan to harm


see ail entry 1

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Statistics for ail

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ail

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

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More Definitions for ail


\ˈāl \

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 \

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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Comments on ail

What made you want to look up ail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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