\ 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

Sophia Zahra, 21, from Wales was helped by the YMCA as a 17-year-old carer [someone under 18 who helps look after someone in their family who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol] and now works for YMCA Swansea’s Young Carer project. Omid Scobie, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince Harry Talks Babies, Fortnite, and the Dark Side of Social Media," 3 Apr. 2019 Since Camila Cabello left Fifth Harmony in late 2016, we’ve been immersed in a wave of drama surrounding the singer and the former quartet’s relationship — complete with a handful of ill-fated jokes, awkward questions and mannequin controversies. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Camila Cabello Reconciled With Fellow Fifth Harmony Member Normani at the 2018 BBMAs," 15 Nov. 2018 Another persistent theory: that one of the Hart moms was terminally ill. Glamour, "Broken Harts, Episode 7: 'Stone-Cold Narcissist'," 22 Jan. 2019 And while my kids have never been gravely ill (knock on wood), superstitions have helped other parents in that terrifying situation. Galadriel Watson, Discover Magazine, "Why We Feel the Need to Knock On Wood," 17 Oct. 2018 Trump will nominate a justice who could set the course of the country for years and decades to come — for good or ill, depending upon your viewpoint — but a late development this weekend reinforces that the decision isn't destined to be a home run. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "The most interesting late development in Trump’s Supreme Court derby," 9 July 2018 Whoever writes the book, that’s just one person’s view, for good or ill. George Varga,, "Mickey Hart talks music, Grateful Dead, rhythm 'trancing' and giving Tipper Gore drum lessons," 5 July 2018 Under an insanity defense, trial procedures are the same, but a judge or jury must decide between verdicts of guilty, not guilty, guilty but mentally ill or not guilty by reason of insanity. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Insanity defense expected in upcoming Waukegan McDonald's stabbing trial," 27 June 2018 Your country’s fate, for good or ill, can change in an instant. Sean Gregory, Time, "Iceland's Big Loss to Nigeria Just Pushed the World Cup Drama to 11," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

While living in London, Litvinenko fell ill in November 2006 and died soon after. Fox News, "Poisoned Russian ex-spy, daughter have slim chance of surviving, niece says," 2 Oct. 2018 Eckardt said Verzilov fell ill on Sept. 11 after attending a friend’s court hearing in the Russian capital, and was admitted to a Moscow hospital that evening with symptoms that included disorientation and widened pupils. Frank Jordans, The Seattle Times, "German doctors: Pussy Riot poisoning ‘highly plausible’," 18 Sep. 2018 The Novichok saga began in March when Sergei and Yulia Skripal mysteriously fell ill on a park bench in Salisbury. Gregory Katz,, "Bottle containing nerve agent found in home of poisoned man in U.K., police say," 13 July 2018 Health officials are investigating the possibility of a parasite in McDonald’s salads causing more than 100 people to fall ill. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "More Than 100 People Ill From Parasite Possibly Linked to McDonald's Salads," 13 July 2018 That same year, Raylene’s 15-year-old brother died after falling ill from a urinary tract blockage. Alexia Fernandez,, "Faith Healer Parents Plead Guilty in the Death of Baby After They Chose Prayer Over Medical Help," 10 July 2018 Yet on July 4th the police tape went back up, after two residents of a nearby town fell critically ill from the same poison. The Economist, "A new Novichok poisoning in Britain," 5 July 2018 Here’s what to know: Who are the victims? Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, a couple in their 40s, who were taken to hospital on Saturday after falling ill at their home in Amesbury, Wiltshire, just eight miles north of Salisbury. Ciara Nugent, Time, "'There Will Be Severe Pain.' What to Know About the New Novichok Nerve Agent Poisoning in the U.K.," 5 July 2018 Police cordoned off the building and other places the two people visited before falling ill, but health officials said there was not believed to be a wider risk to the public. Matt Dunham And Danica Kirka,, "2 sickened by unknown substance near site of Russian spy’s poisoning in England," 4 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For the more common—but still annoying—ills, here's how to talk to your doctor about finding a better fit. Macaela Mackenzie, Glamour, "Signs You’re on the Wrong Birth Control Pill," 3 Apr. 2019 For example, most of the ills of the housing market leading up to 2008 were marked by lending practices that ranged from irresponsible to downright reckless. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "Housing market signaled potential future downturn in 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 To make his point, Damian brings out a long line of North Shore High girls to give testimonials about the ills of not pumping the brakes when trying to hunt down your would-be bae., "Karen Smith Was Always The Best Mean Girl & The Broadway Musical Proves It," 8 June 2018 Thought experiment: what if Definers had mounted a campaign blaming the world’s ills on Fox News instead of George Soros? Casey Newton, The Verge, "Dueling employee petitions have revealed a deep divide within Google over China," 29 Nov. 2018 Pregnant, breastfeeding and menstruating women are exempt from the fast — children, the elderly and the ill also are not required to participate. Editors, USA TODAY, "Gaza violence, Pennsylvania primary, NBA draft lottery: 5 things to know Tuesday," 15 May 2018 Rose scored 22 points and Teague added 19 points and 10 assists for the Timberwolves, who played without the ill Andrew Wiggins but beat the Los Angeles Clippers 130-120 on Monday night. Joe Ziemer, The Seattle Times, "Healthy Rose, Teague lead Timberwolves past Clippers 130-120," 11 Feb. 2019 While these character-building scenes and increased lightheartedness are a step in the right direction, that doesn't mean Discovery has been cured of all its narrative ills. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "'Star Trek: Discovery' Season Two Wants You to Forget About Season One," 18 Jan. 2019 The bottom line is that despite a legion of attempts, there is no real case against buybacks, let alone enough to blame them for all sorts of economic ills. Clifford Asness, WSJ, "Buyback Derangement Syndrome," 16 Aug. 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

25 Apr 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

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