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
Despite all this, an ailing Viserys remained steadfast in his choice of Rhaenyra as heir up until the moment of his death. Megan McCluskey, TIME, 7 June 2024 Doctors didn’t know what was ailing him or how to provide relief. Lz Granderson, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2024
What’s more, the age-old phrase the team’s fans have used to describe Detroit’s recent ails – ‘SOL’ or same old Lions – seems to have been banished for now. Ben Morse, CNN, 17 Feb. 2024 In the age of generative AI, the theft of huge troves of medical information might be even more dangerous, as our health records wind up in data sets that enable off-the-books innovation in exploiting our ails. Steven Levy, WIRED, 12 Jan. 2024 See all Example Sentences for ail 

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 16 Jun. 2024.

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

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