\ 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

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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 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, "Dutch prime minister didn't visit dying mother to comply with coronavirus lockdown measures," 27 May 2020 Soon after, Wu left the industry to care for her ailing mother in San Jose. Robert Ito, New York Times, "Alice Wu’s Lesbian Rom-Com Was Influential, but Her Follow-Up Wasn’t Easy," 29 Apr. 2020 Lucha is caring for her ailing mother, Amalia (Gigi Cervantes), who’s losing her memory. Manuel Mendoza, Dallas News, "‘American Mariachi’ tells the story of family and friendship through formation of a 1970s all-female band," 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,, "How Grey's Addressed Dr. Alex Karev's Absence in Midseason Premiere After Justin Chambers' Exit," 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, "Imprisoned Cleveland-area author moved to halfway house while production commences for movie adaption directed by Russo brothers," 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, "“Joker” is not especially perceptive or politically sophisticated," 3 Oct. 2019 Despite his ailing health and decades behind bars, Ridley and his family maintained hope. Fox News, "Ohio man who sought exoneration over murder convictions dies of coronavirus in prison," 21 May 2020 The firm had hoped to use some of the proceeds from that deal to boost ailing units, although worsening finances are gnawing at the lifeline. William Wilkes,, "Thyssenkrupp to Break Up German Giant in Fight for Survival," 19 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Illinois’s fiscal ails have long revolved around its pension system for teachers and state workers. Shruti Singh,, "Pritzker Finds Running Most-Troubled U.S. State Only Gets Harder," 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, "China’s next coronavirus crisis: What happens after a country closes its economy," 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, "A Historical Lesson in Disease Containment," 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, "In El Paso and now Dayton, the familiar fallout of a mass shooting repeats again," 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, "Apple to Chinese Consumers: Buy a New iPhone for Under $30 a Month, Interest Free," 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, "“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, 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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Time Traveler for ail

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Ail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for ail


\ ˈāl How to pronounce ail (audio) \

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 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on ail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ail

Nglish: Translation of ail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ail for Arabic Speakers

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