\ 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

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 To examine the health effects of an ailing economy, Seeman and her colleagues used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, or MESA, a study funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Susan Scutti, CNN, "Here's how the Great Recession impacted your health," 12 Mar. 2018 As McCain, a six-term Arizona Republican, battles brain cancer, his daughter, a television commentator, has emerged as one of her ailing father's vociferous defenders against political critics. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, azcentral, "Meghan McCain tweets Father's Day photo, calls John McCain 'greatest father in the world'," 17 June 2018 Instead, the musical gets most of its dramatic mileage out of Gloria’s edgy home life before stardom (caring for an ailing father) and tense relationship with her mother afterward. Tim Smith,, "At the Hippodrome, a propulsive journey through the career of Gloria Estefan in 'On Your Feet'," 7 June 2018 When her ailing father divides up his football empire, Nina Gill inherits the underdog team, Paterson Pork, while the Dallas Cowboys are left to her brother. The Economist, "Crime, punishment and the end of the world," 3 May 2018 Still in his early 40s, Gauguin, with a scraggly beard and rheumy eyes, is already hobbled and ailing, so much so that a sympathetic local doctor (Malik Zidi) urges him to return to France. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti' chronicles Gauguin’s desire to see a new way," 13 July 2018 Yet upon a little digging, the out-of-position idea doesn't go very far to explain what has ailed the Orioles defensively and put them on pace for the worst defensive season of any team in recent memory. Jon Meoli,, "Try as they might, Orioles can't use out-of-position players as reason for league's worst defense," 12 July 2018 Sharif, who is in London with his ailing wife, has promised to return to Pakistan. Munir Ahmed, The Seattle Times, "Pakistan opposition leader Khan unveils election platform," 9 July 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

16 Sep 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).


to make amends

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