\ 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

The elevation of the last term is meant to deflect Trump-style accusations that the left hates the United States and wishes it ill. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Patrios," 16 Sep. 2019 Whether that terminally ill person has been living with a disability is irrelevant. Chris Eaton, Twin Cities, "Chris Eaton: My end-of-life bill lets people make decisions about their health care if they can — and it protects those who can’t," 15 Sep. 2019 The Brewers' ninth-inning rally was put in motion when Cardinals reliever John Gant, subbing for ill Carlos Martinez, walked three hitters before departing with one out and a 4-3 lead. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers 7, Cardinals 6: Ryan Braun stuns St. Louis with two-out grand slam in ninth inning," 15 Sep. 2019 Antonio’s grandmother recently fell very ill and is still fighting on life support. Matt Zenitz |, al, "Alabama five-star freshman plans to enter transfer portal," 13 Sep. 2019 Fear of the dangerous mentally ill is longstanding in America. Troy Rondinone, The Conversation, "A plan to monitor the mentally ill? History of mental illness and stigma provides insights," 12 Sep. 2019 That money is then placed into a scholarship fund for children of 9/11 first responders and military who have died or become ill or injured and can’t return to work. Mckenna Oxenden,, "Relay race honoring 9/11 victims passes through Baltimore," 11 Sep. 2019 Many people who have fallen ill report vaping both nicotine and THC as well as THC alone. Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, "A vaping lung disease has sickened hundreds and caused deaths. Here's what you need to know.," 10 Sep. 2019 The types of studies needed to demonstrate this hypothesis, such as measuring neurochemical changes in the critically ill, would be both technically and ethically challenging. Robert Martone, Scientific American, "New Clues Found in Understanding Near-Death Experiences," 10 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The Hurricanes’ 0-2 start for the first time since 1978 may have some fans feeling ill as well. David Furones,, "Miami Hurricanes seek a welcoming return home against Bethune-Cookman," 13 Sep. 2019 But bike advocates and city councilmembers criticize the operation for being ill-timed and off-message, saying it’s at odds with new Vision Zero policies to show the streets aren’t just for cars. Rachel Swan,, "Berkeley cyclists cry foul over $238 citations for rolling through stop signs," 11 Sep. 2019 This year the donor will lose income during the surgery and recovery period, something that many families experience when a loved one is seriously ill., "Community News For The Stafford Edition," 9 Sep. 2019 There are also broader worries that the pinch is particularly ill-timed. Tom Benning, Dallas News, "Trump takes aim at 'golden visa' program that's pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into Texas," 24 Aug. 2019 On the voyage out, the Kipling children—his second daughter, Elsie, was born in 1896, followed by a son, John, the next year—caught bad colds, and soon both Rudyard and Josephine were seriously ill with pneumonia. Maya Jasanoff, The New Republic, "Rudyard Kipling, American Imperialist," 22 Aug. 2019 Another dog, Mencey, also became severely ill less than a year after his arrival. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "State Department report reveals bomb-sniffing dogs sent by the U.S. to Jordan dying from poor care," 16 Sep. 2019 Grocery workers often have more leverage in negotiations with employers than other retail workers because groceries are perishable and companies can ill-afford slowdowns, experts say. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "47,000 grocery workers in California avert a strike with new contracts," 13 Sep. 2019 Now he is being roasted for his team’s 18 penalties and looking utterly ill-prepared for the opening game. Terry Pluto,, "From highly praised to hotly criticized — how will Cleveland Browns coach Freddie Kitchens respond?," 10 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Trump has not backed away from his charges that Democratic leaders are responsible for the ills of America’s biggest cities. Fox News, "Trump promises 'substantial' middle-class tax cut in Baltimore speech to GOP lawmakers," 13 Sep. 2019 Trump has not backed away from his allegations that Democratic leaders are responsible for the ills of America’s biggest cities., "Trump visiting Baltimore Thursday for first time since disparaging it - The Boston Globe," 13 Sep. 2019 From the ills of divorce to falling in love with a narcissist, LaMora isn’t afraid to talk about interactions that most individuals shy away from. Kassi Jackson,, "Step inside La Sala Femme, a collaborative art installation in Hartford, and meet some of the black artists who brought it to life," 5 Sep. 2019 Despite acknowledging the ills of neoliberalism and majoritarianism, those who practice progressive politics seem to be struggling to find clarity about how to respond to the complex web of inclusion-exclusion these forces have created. Ajay Gudavarthy, Quartz India, "Neoliberalism is killing the very idea of citizenship in India," 2 Sep. 2019 Where his prior missives against the ills of political correctness were often contained to segments of his shows, Sticks and Stones is astonishing in its unrelenting clarity about where Chappelle’s sympathies lie. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Dave Chappelle Doubles Down," 28 Aug. 2019 Williamson’s role in the race is something like that of a progressive counterpart to Jordan Peterson, reminding her audience that Medicare for All or free college won’t cure the deep-seated ills of despair and aimlessness affecting the nation. Kayla Bartsch, National Review, "Marianne Williamson Offers Priestly Wisdom for a Nation Adrift — Seriously," 12 Aug. 2019 If passed, Ohio would join a growing number of states passing legislation about the ills of pornography. Jessie Balmert,, "Ohio bill: Porn is a public health crisis," 2 July 2019 While the bulk of the paper focused on the ills of unfettered freeway-building, its final pages turned to the topic that would define the group’s legacy. John Aguilar, The Denver Post, "RTD at 50: The freeway fight that paved the way for transit in metro Denver," 29 June 2019

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

10 Oct 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).


to fake an opponent out of position

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