\ ˈil How to pronounce ill (audio) \
worse\ ˈwərs How to pronounce worse (audio) \; worst\ ˈwərst How to pronounce worst (audio) \

Definition of ill

 (Entry 1 of 6)

1a comparative also iller; superlative also illest

(1) : not in good health also : nauseated
(2) : not normal or sound ill health
b : causing suffering or distress ill weather
2 : unfriendly, hostile ill feeling
3a : not suited to circumstances or not to one's advantage : unlucky an ill omen
b : involving difficulty : hard
4a : attributing evil or an objectionable quality held an ill opinion of his neighbors
b : resulting from, accompanied by, or indicative of an evil or malevolent intention ill deeds
c chiefly Scotland : immoral, vicious
5a : not meeting an accepted standard ill manners
b archaic : notably unskillful or inefficient


worse; worst

Definition of ill (Entry 2 of 6)

1a : in a faulty, inefficient, insufficient, or unpleasant manner often used in combination the methods used may be ill-adapted to the aims in view— R. M. Hutchins
b : in an unfortunate manner : badly, unluckily ill fares the land … where wealth accumulates, and men decay— Oliver Goldsmith
2 : hardly, scarcely can ill afford such extravagances
3a : so as to reflect unfavorably spoke ill of the neighbors
b : with displeasure or hostility
c : in a harsh manner
4 : in a reprehensible manner



Definition of ill (Entry 3 of 6)

b(1) : ailment, sickness
(2) : something that disturbs or afflicts : trouble economic and social ills
2 : something that reflects unfavorably spoke no ill of him
3 : the reverse of good : evil


abbreviation (1)

Definition of ill (Entry 4 of 6)

illustrated; illustration; illustrator


abbreviation (2)

Definition of Ill (Entry 5 of 6)



geographical name
\ ˈēl How to pronounce Ill (audio) \

Definition of Ill (Entry 6 of 6)

river 129 miles (208 kilometers) long in northeastern France flowing into the Rhine River

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Examples of ill in a Sentence


That dog can eat almost anything with no ill effects. They had been subjected to months of ill treatment.


He is being ill served by his advisers. Please don't think ill of me. He was a good man who never spoke ill of anyone.


chicken pox and the other ills that were once a fixture of childhood idealistic people who try to cure all of our society's ills
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

When Massachusetts lawmakers approved a program to release prisoners who are incapacitated or terminally ill, proponents hailed it as a compassionate, practical measure that could save taxpayers millions in health care costs. Gal Tziperman Lotan,, "In first year of medical parole, just four inmates granted reprieve," 15 July 2019 Hospice care is generally considered appropriate for terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of six months or less. Michael Kosnar, NBC News, "Hundreds of hospice centers in U.S. get failing grades," 9 July 2019 Nicholas Godejohn, 30, is currently serving life in prison without parole for his role in the June 2015 stabbing of Dee Dee Blanchard, who had forced her daughter for years to portray herself as terminally ill. Rachel Desantis,, "Nick Godejohn Says Gypsy Rose Blanchard Was His ‘Soulmate’ in New Prison Interview," 9 July 2019 Meanwhile, terminally ill cancer patients can get medical cannabis through reciprocity agreements with other states. USA TODAY, "Moon rocks, Misty of Chincoteague, Haiku Stairs: News from around our 50 states," 28 June 2019 For example, patients with active cancer, by far the most common disease among terminally ill people who request medical aid in dying, are automatically disqualified. WSJ, "Slippery Slope of Human Organ Harvesting," 21 June 2019 Maine's measure will allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people. CBS News, "Maine becomes 8th state to legalize assisted suicide," 13 June 2019 Rinderknecht has pushed for passage of the federal right-to-try law, which would allow terminally ill patients to ask pharmaceutical companies for experimental drugs. Anne Saker,, "The Rinderknechts of Springfield Township take a summer vacation with serious illness," 11 June 2019 Fletcher responded that his district is directly impacted because many acutely ill Tri-City patients are transferred to the county hospital in San Diego. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Leaders threaten state audit if Tri-City doesn’t provide plan to re-open psychiatric units," 10 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Rather, those companies made extraordinarily large and ill-advised bets on metallurgical coal, a special variety best adapted to steelmaking, meant for export abroad. David Roberts, Vox, "Coal left Appalachia devastated. Now it’s doing the same to Wyoming.," 9 July 2019 Astonishingly technically gifted, an eye for a shot (or several shots, usually from about 20 yards and sometimes ill-advised) and, as Kelley O'Hara said after the final, a knack for making the extraordinary look casual., "Women's World Cup Player Ratings: How Every Member of the USWNT Fared in France This Summer," 9 July 2019 His statement about being smarter than the generals was ill-advised. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Ari Fleischer on Why Former Republican Critics of Trump Now Embrace Him," 9 July 2019 This is either an incredibly ill-advised setup by the Republicans, or a fiendishly clever one by the Democrats. WSJ, "Political Donation Systems Like WinRed Must First Seek to Do No Harm," 30 June 2019 The judge agreed, but then Barrett’s sister, who was unmarried and never had children, fell ill. Wendi C. Thomas, ProPublica, "The Nonprofit Hospital That Makes Millions, Owns a Collection Agency and Relentlessly Sues the Poor," 27 June 2019 Another American has passed away after falling seriously ill in the Dominican Republic. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "Denver Dad Dies After Falling Ill In The Dominican Republic," 27 June 2019 There, every day, new waves of mostly Central American families arrive to face a border-security operation often ill-suited to house or care for them. Julia Gavarrete, azcentral, "'Mom, I love you': Migrant father and daughter from drowning photo make a sorrowful, final return to El Salvador," 1 July 2019 But ebony tends to crack in large pieces, making it ill-suited for construction and furniture. Tim Mcdonnell, National Geographic, "Cameroon’s embattled ebony trees get a lifeline—from guitar maker," 17 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The best way to avoid getting ill is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, according to health officials. Crystal Hill, Indianapolis Star, "Mosquitoes in Marion County test positive for West Nile virus, health officials say," 2 July 2019 Some Republicans have even started pointing to buybacks as the cause of America’s political and economic ills. Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker, "The Economist Who Put Stock Buybacks in Washington’s Crosshairs," 20 June 2019 All indications are that the actual reason behind the military’s bloated budget goes far beyond the ill-starred ventures of our twenty-first-century presidents, and has far more serious implications for both our defense and our society. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's magazine, "The Military-Industrial Virus," 10 June 2019 After the French Revolution of 1789, the French right routinely blamed every ill of modern life on Voltaire and Rousseau. Lynn Hunt, The New York Review of Books, "The Man Who Questioned Everything," 7 Mar. 2019 Fasting is obligatory for all Muslims, except for the ill, pregnant, traveling, elderly, or menstruating. Eslah Attar, National Geographic, "The sighting of the new crescent moon marks the start of Ramadan, the most sacred month in Islamic culture.," 12 June 2019 Rally attendees also called for the closure of Rikers, which has become a symbol of the ills of pretrial bail and lengthy detention periods, most famously in the case of Kalief Browder. Emanuella Grinberg, CNN, "Family of transgender woman who died at Rikers Island says she should not have been there," 11 June 2019 And then there is the very valid argument that Loughlin, a white woman of privilege, is hardly a prime example of the ills of excessively tough sentences. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Will Lori Loughlin Really Get 40 Years in Prison?," 30 May 2019 His experience may have influenced his current position on how the NCAA could solve many of the current ills in the game today. Gary Bedore, kansascity, "Payments to prep players have been 'going on since the early days' Pollard says | The Kansas City Star," 26 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ill.' 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 ill


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4c


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3b


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for ill


Middle English, from Old Norse illr

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Learn More about ill

Dictionary Entries near ill



ilka day





Statistics for ill

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ill

The first known use of ill was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for ill



English Language Learners Definition of ill

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: not well or healthy : sick or unhealthy
of health : not normal or good
: harmful or damaging



English Language Learners Definition of ill (Entry 2 of 3)

: in a bad or imperfect way
: in an unfavorable or unkind way



English Language Learners Definition of ill (Entry 3 of 3)

: bad or unlucky things
: a sickness or disease
: troubles or problems


\ ˈil How to pronounce ill (audio) \
worse\ ˈwərs \; worst\ ˈwərst \

Kids Definition of ill

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : not in good health : sick an ill person
2 : not normal or sound ill health
3 : meant to do harm : evil ill deeds
4 : causing suffering or distress ill weather
5 : not helpful He was plagued by ill luck.
6 : not kind or friendly ill intentions
7 : not right or proper ill manners


worse; worst

Kids Definition of ill (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : with displeasure or anger The remark was ill received.
2 : in a harsh or unkind way The animals were ill treated.
3 : scarcely sense 1, hardly He can ill afford it.
4 : in a bad or faulty way They're ill-prepared to face the winter.



Kids Definition of ill (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : the opposite of good Things will change for good or ill.
2 : a sickness or disease childhood ills
3 : trouble entry 1 sense 2 society's ills

Kids Definition of Ill.



\ ˈil How to pronounce ill (audio) \
worse\ ˈwərs How to pronounce worse (audio) \ also iller\ ˈil-​ər How to pronounce iller (audio) \; worst\ ˈwərst How to pronounce worst (audio) \

Medical Definition of ill

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : affected with some ailment : not in good health incurably ill with cancerTime mentally ill
2 : affected with nausea often to the point of vomiting thought she would be ill after the ride on the roller coaster



Medical Definition of ill (Entry 2 of 2)

: ailment, sickness chicken pox and other ills of childhood

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More from Merriam-Webster on ill

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ill

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ill

Spanish Central: Translation of ill

Nglish: Translation of ill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ill for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ill

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


characterized by aphorism

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