\ 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

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 There are plenty of things that ail this particular Utah team, maybe more than what can legitimately be fixed in one offseason, but one offseason would be a start. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 Jan. 2022 Jackson's ankle didn't appear to ail him at all during the second half. Omari Sankofa Ii, Detroit Free Press, 2 Apr. 2021 Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, obeying The Netherlands’ ban on nursing home visitations during the coronavirus pandemic, did not visit his ailing mother for weeks before her death earlier this month, according to local media reports Monday. Fox News, 27 May 2020 Soon after, Wu left the industry to care for her ailing mother in San Jose. Robert Ito, New York Times, 29 Apr. 2020 Lucha is caring for her ailing mother, Amalia (Gigi Cervantes), who’s losing her memory. Manuel Mendoza, Dallas News, 26 Mar. 2020 Chambers, 49, was noticeably absent from the midseason finale in November, and it was explained that his character was taking care of his ailing mother. Christina Dugan,, 23 Jan. 2020 Nugent wrote that Walker also plans to care for his ailing mother, who is suffering from leukemia, Nugent wrote. Eric Heisig, cleveland, 17 Oct. 2019 The protagonist, Arthur Fleck, is a mentally ill aspiring stand-up comedian who lives in a rundown flat with his ailing mother, Penny (Frances Conroy). N.b., The Economist, 3 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 The pitch inherently presumes a technologically advanced society, one where medicine has cured our physical ails. Will Nevin,, 26 Dec. 2017 Normally served on the street, ya dong’s herbal powers are said to cure bodily ails. Natalie B. Compton, GQ, 1 Aug. 2017 See More

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.

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

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Cite this Entry

“Ail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ail


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

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.


transitive verb
\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on ail

Nglish: Translation of ail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ail for Arabic Speakers


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