suf·​fer ˈsə-fər How to pronounce suffer (audio)
suffered; suffering ˈsə-f(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce suffer (audio)

transitive verb

: to submit to or be forced to endure
suffer martyrdom
: to feel keenly : labor under
suffer thirst
: to put up with especially as inevitable or unavoidable
: to allow especially by reason of indifference
the eagle suffers little birds to singWilliam Shakespeare

intransitive verb

: to endure death, pain, or distress
: to sustain loss or damage
: to be subject to disability or handicap
sufferable adjective
sufferableness noun
sufferably adverb
sufferer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for suffer

bear, suffer, endure, abide, tolerate, stand mean to put up with something trying or painful.

bear usually implies the power to sustain without flinching or breaking.

forced to bear a tragic loss

suffer often suggests acceptance or passivity rather than courage or patience in bearing.

suffering many insults

endure implies continuing firm or resolute through trials and difficulties.

endured years of rejection

abide suggests acceptance without resistance or protest.

cannot abide their rudeness

tolerate suggests overcoming or successfully controlling an impulse to resist, avoid, or resent something injurious or distasteful.

refused to tolerate such treatment

stand emphasizes even more strongly the ability to bear without discomposure or flinching.

unable to stand teasing

Example Sentences

He died instantly and did not suffer. He suffered a heart attack and died instantly. She suffered an injury during the game. We suffered a great deal during the war. I hate to see a child suffer. She suffered through another one of their long visits. The team suffered a defeat in the play-offs. Their relationship suffered because of her work. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Jessenia Simmons, 45, of New Bedford, was found at Globe Car Wash suffering from what appeared to be a gunshot wound shortly after 12:30 p.m., said Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. Sean Cotter,, 30 May 2023 People in vulnerable groups — especially active children, the elderly and anyone suffering from asthma, lung disease, COVID-19 or other serious health problems — should avoid spending a lot of time outdoors, the sustainability office said. Cheryl V. Jackson, The Indianapolis Star, 29 May 2023 Northern District officers responded at approximately 2:32 a.m. to a report of a car crash in the 400 block of East Lorraine Avenue and found a man suffering a head injury who said he had been hit by a car, police said. Baltimore Sun Staff, Baltimore Sun, 29 May 2023 That coordination could suffer if the program were to move too far away. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 May 2023 He was fired less than 24 hours after UW suffered a 34-10 home loss to Illinois on Oct. 1. Jeff Potrykus, Journal Sentinel, 28 May 2023 Ahead of the anniversary of its founding in 482 A.D., Kyiv suffered the largest drone attack since the start of the war with Russia, Ukrainian officials said Sunday. Leila Sackur, NBC News, 28 May 2023 Davies suffered a left oblique strain in just his second start of the year back on April 8 against the Dodgers. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, 27 May 2023 The ball appeared to hit Adames in the head or face, but Brewers manager Craig Counsell later revealed the shortstop did not suffer any fractures. Chantz Martin, Fox News, 27 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'suffer.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English sufferen, suffren, borrowed from Anglo-French suffrir, going back to Vulgar Latin *sufferīre, re-formation of Latin sufferre "to submit to, endure," from suf-, assimilated form of sub- sub- + ferre "to carry, bear" — more at bear entry 2

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of suffer was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near suffer

Cite this Entry

“Suffer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


suf·​fer ˈsəf-ər How to pronounce suffer (audio)
suffered; suffering -(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce suffer (audio)
: to feel or endure pain
: to experience something unpleasant
suffer a defeat
: to bear loss or damage
the business suffered during the storm
sufferable adjective
sufferableness noun
sufferably adverb
sufferer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on suffer

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