\ 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

Sierra soon became ill, started throwing up and lost consciousness before dying on Aug. 27. Harriet Sokmensuer,, "Boyfriend of Accused Mom Is Also Arrested in Case of 5-Year-Old Girl Found Decaying in Closet," 9 Sep. 2019 But Geel’s tradition of welcoming the mentally ill into their homes has a horrific origin story in the form of a seventh century Irish princess named Dymphna, a devout Christian who fled her homeland after her father went mad. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Joi Ito Resigns as Director of the M.I.T. Media Lab: raceAhead," 9 Sep. 2019 Zarkhin also took third place in investigative reporting for his work on the failures in Oregon’s system caring for the severely mentally ill. oregonlive, "The Oregonian/OregonLive wins 5 Blethen awards," 5 Sep. 2019 Barbara remained in her private practice through 2013, when Bill became ill and passed away., "Barbara Ann Cooley," 31 Aug. 2019 Although many of those who have fallen ill reported vaping THC, the ingredient in cannabis that produces a high, CDC officials have said that no product has been conclusively linked to the illness. Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, "'We know we have our work cut out for us': Gov. Holcomb unveils plan to combat teen vaping," 29 Aug. 2019 Throughout the spring, Manzano battled pneumonia, lost an unhealthy amount of weight and fell ill again several more times before a brief return to racing. Chris Chavez,, "Olympic Silver Medalist Leo Manzano Retires After Accomplished Career," 28 July 2019 The viral disease primarily affects horses and cattle, but swine, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas can become ill as well. Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post, "Virus making horses ill spreads to 11 Colorado counties; Larimer hit hardest," 26 July 2019 The bill effectively provides financial support for first responders and others who became ill after the attacks. CBS News, "9/11 survivors remember the first responders who saved their lives," 23 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

All the patients used at least one cannabis-containing device before becoming ill, but reported using other vaping products as well. Fox News, "Vitamin E acetate in marijuana vaping devices possibly linked to deadly lung illnesses, officials say," 7 Sep. 2019 The patients who became ill all reported vaping in the weeks and months prior. Ivan Moreno,, "THC found in Wisconsin vaping cases that led to illnesses," 30 Aug. 2019 The patients who became ill all reported vaping in the weeks and months prior. Ivan Moreno, Twin Cities, "THC found in Wisconsin vaping cases that led to illnesses," 29 Aug. 2019 All the teens and young adults have reported vaping nicotine or THC, or both, for weeks or months before becoming ill. Mary Spicuzza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'I don't want somebody else's son to end up like this': Family of Burlington man hospitalized with lung injuries warns of vaping dangers," 14 Aug. 2019 The thought of a child or expectant mom becoming seriously ill is intolerable. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Defending culling of geese; Culling angers Canadian; If the shoe fits…; Give that team a raise (7/10/19)," 10 July 2019 One patient has died and another became seriously ill after fecal transplants inadvertently seeded their innards with a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection, the Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "One dead after poop transplant gone wrong, FDA warns," 14 June 2019 Fox News, quoting a relative, reported that a California man, Robert Bell Wallace, died in April after becoming ill at a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "For the Dominican Republic, 6 U.S. tourist deaths, the shooting of David Ortiz and a new image problem," 12 June 2019 There was one fatality: an El Al flight attendant who went into a coma and died this month after falling ill on a flight from New York. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "The Message of Measles," 26 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Fifth: time to address structural environmental ills, particularly climate change, is short—if not already expired—but solutions are available now. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "What We Learned From The Fortune Global Sustainability Forum," 11 Sep. 2019 Each weekend features seven different short works — theater, dance, slam poetry — addressing societal ills. Web Behrens,, "15 things to do with the kids Sept. 9-15," 8 Sep. 2019 In putting the spotlight on what happened to Ngo, Trump Jr. isn’t trying to foster debate about the country’s ills in hopes of finding solutions., "Donald Trump Jr. condemns media’s response to assault of Portland conservative, ratcheting up outrage," 3 July 2019 Critics of the decision have pointed out that much of the aid is intended to address the social and political ills behind so much migration. New York Times, "‘It Is Our Fault’: El Salvador’s President Takes Blame for Migrant Deaths in Rio Grande," 1 July 2019 Now, the sight of a position player climbing the mound to record the final outs of a lopsided major league game is an almost routine occurrence, a phenomenon likely connected to many of the game’s ills. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Garbage time, all the time: MLB sees historic spike in position players pitching," 19 Aug. 2019 De Mathew was a great composer of Kikuyu lyrics, which carried undertones of societal ills, including alcoholism and promoting peace and cohesion in society. Bukola Adebayo And Kagweni Micheni, CNN, "Kenyan musician John De' Mathew dies in car crash," 19 Aug. 2019 But, once politicians and the general public had been taught that government could fix the largest economic ills, such ideas had little traction in the real world. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: ‘Inflation is solved’? Don’t bank on it," 28 July 2019 A decade after the financial crisis, capitalism is held responsible for a variety of major societal ills, including wealth inequality and climate change. Eshe Nelson, Quartz, "One of the world’s most influential economists is on a mission to save capitalism from itself," 22 July 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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Dictionary Entries near ill



ilka day





Statistics for ill

Last Updated

12 Sep 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 spread over or through

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