\ˈil \
worse\ˈwərs \; worst\ˈwərst \

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)

1a : misfortune, distress

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 \

Definition of Ill (Entry 6 of 6)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

City officials say that Tijuana is ill-prepared and lacks the funds to assist such a large migrant influx. Alicia A. Caldwell, WSJ, "As Conditions Worsen, Some Caravan Migrants Seek to Go Back Home," 28 Nov. 2018 Monroe, of Avon, Indiana, had pulled over when the 26-year-old Jackson became ill. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Man living illegally in US gets 16 years for crash that killed Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson and Uber driver," 22 Sep. 2018 Sams became chronically ill during high school, which was a critical time for her body image and mental health. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "Abby Sams Wanted to See More Disabled Models In Fashion—So She Entered an Aerie Contest," 2 Aug. 2018 People generally become ill 15 to 50 days after exposure and a blood test can confirm the presence of the virus. Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana sees first death in multi-state hepatitis A outbreak," 11 July 2018 At first surprised and then disconcerted by Teddy’s behavior, Dolores seems ill-prepared for the results of her personality change experiment. Sandra Upson, WIRED, "Westworld Recap, Season 2 Episode 9: The Many Lives of the Man in Black," 18 June 2018 Last year, the controversial head of the clinic, Stanislaw Burzynski, was disciplined by the Texas Medical Board for misleading terminally ill cancer patients about their treatments and risks. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Crowdfunding raises millions for quack cancer remedies, like coffee enemas," 20 Sep. 2018 Foley appeared to be ill-prepared to answer for his corporate record, and this issue dogged him throughout his loss to Malloy in a rematch of their 2010 tilt. Neil Vigdor,, "Susan Bysiewicz And Ned Lamont Make Headway In Eastern Connecticut," 9 July 2018 In the new case, a couple—which multiple media outlets have identified as Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44—became ill and lost consciousness on Saturday in Amesbury, a town in Wiltshire, England. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Second Novichok poisoning in Britain raises alarm, questions over contamination," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Just as in nighttime shots, the mode is ill-suited to photographing moving objects, however, there’s no danger of the camera overexposing daylight scenes. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "Google’s Night Sight is subtly awesome in the daytime, too," 26 Nov. 2018 This would set the stage for an interminable series of referendums far into Britain’s future on a range of questions ill-suited to direct democracy—a terrible death by a thousand elections. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, "Britain Risks Death by a Thousand Elections," 21 Nov. 2018 Some of its health claims are unproven, but there is evidence that the treatment can be beneficial for people who have joint pain or are ill suited for hotter traditional saunas. Stefanos Chen, The Seattle Times, "Real estate technology that could have a lasting effect on housing," 20 Nov. 2018 But most economists view the plan as half-baked and ill-suited for a nation sitting atop the world's largest petroleum reserves. Joshua Goodman, Fox News, "Venezuela merchants face arrest for defying Maduro's reforms," 7 Sep. 2018 Those who fell ill are from various states, according to WDRB. Joe Marusak, charlotteobserver, "E. coli sickens hundreds on zip line tours in popular resort town," 11 July 2018 Dawn Sturgess and her boyfriend Charlie Rowley, 45, fell ill on July 1 and were found unresponsive in their home. Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "British Woman Dies After Being Exposed to Nerve Agent Used on Former Russian Spy," 9 July 2018 But her life changed when her parents fell ill, forcing her to return to her hometown. Prisana Kongwong, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why young professionals are taking up farming in Thailand," 2 July 2018 Critics say the military — trained in tactics of war — is ill suited for police tasks, and that its deployment is undercutting trust in the military, long among the nation’s most respected institutions. Steve Fisher,, "Mexico sent in the army to fight the drug war. Many question the toll on society and the army itself," 18 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Panel members hope to soon expand the list by adding tests for viruses like flu, antibiotic resistance in bacteria, cancer, heart disease and other ills. New York Times, "For First Time, W.H.O. Names Some Lab Tests ‘Essential’," 21 May 2018 Jack was something of a political cipher in 1947, impatient with the pace of lawmaking and often absent, plagued with back pain and other ills. Eileen Mcnamara,, "How Eunice Kennedy Shriver parlayed her famous name into a legacy of public service," 27 Mar. 2018 In other words, looking at life fearfully with a mindset of scarcity physically ages people, diminishes their health, and makes them prone to drug addiction and other ills. Clay Marsh, STAT, "Facing deaths of despair from the depths of despair in West Virginia," 12 July 2018 And if Burke keeps playing and scoring, the Union’s other ills might be forgotten, too. Jonathan Tannenwald,, "David Accam, Cory Burke give Union wild 4-3 win at Chicago Fire," 11 July 2018 In the same vein, President Macron believes that the only cure for Europe’s ills is more Europe. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Macron’s Democratic Vision," 24 Apr. 2018 The Canada native takes a step back to observe the ills of society exuded throughout the clip. Michael Saponara, Billboard, "Classified Hopes to Spark Change in Society With New 'Fallen' Video: Premiere," 29 June 2018 When the Eighteenth Amendment passed through the legislature in 1919, a generation of children had already been educated to thwart the ills of alcohol. Hannah C. Griggs, The Atlantic, "Teaching Sobriety With ‘The Bottle’," 27 May 2018 The aura of Mandela is that of turning the other cheek to historical injustice—the ills of colonialism, of oppression, of exploitation. Peter Godwin, WSJ, "Mandela’s Troubled Legacy," 13 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ill

Dictionary Entries near ill



ilka day





Statistics for ill

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ill

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

ills : troubles or problems


\ˈil \
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 \
worse\ˈwərs \ also iller\ˈil-​ər \; worst\ˈwərst \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!