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

Definition of suffer

transitive verb

1a : to submit to or be forced to endure suffer martyrdom
b : to feel keenly : labor under suffer thirst
3 : to put up with especially as inevitable or unavoidable
4 : to allow especially by reason of indifference the eagle suffers little birds to sing— William Shakespeare

intransitive verb

1 : to endure death, pain, or distress
2 : to sustain loss or damage
3 : to be subject to disability or handicap

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Other Words from suffer

sufferable \ ˈsə-​f(ə-​)rə-​bəl How to pronounce suffer (audio) \ adjective
sufferableness noun
sufferably \ ˈsə-​f(ə-​)rə-​blē How to pronounce suffer (audio) \ adverb
sufferer \ ˈsə-​fər-​ər How to pronounce suffer (audio) \ 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

Examples of suffer in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Diane Takvorian, executive director of the Environmental Health Coalition, said industry has for too long profited while portside communities suffer from devastatingly high levels of asthma and cancer risk. Joshua Emerson Smith, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pressure rises on Port of San Diego to curb air pollution from shipping industry," 8 May 2021 Why Teams Hold the Secret to Well-Being and Resilience, provides an excellent account of what is at stake when employees suffer from burnout. Ira Bedzow, Forbes, "As Employees Are Returning To Work, Now Is The Time To Set Up Systems That Can Prevent Burnout," 7 May 2021 Police officials across the country have noted similar forces, as their cities — big and small, led by Democrats and Republicans — also suffer under surging gun violence. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, "Startling surge in L.A. bloodshed as COVID-19 fades: ‘Too many guns in too many hands’," 4 May 2021 And even if the United States is able to move to a much more comfortable, pre-pandemic way of life in the coming months, the coronavirus threat will loom as long as others parts of the world suffer. Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bay Area residents with close ties to India grapple with suffering of loved ones in pandemic-ravaged nation," 28 Apr. 2021 Yet their apathy signals a choice, a decision to look the other way as their fellow Indians suffer. Vidya Krishnan, The Atlantic, "India’s Moral Failure," 27 Apr. 2021 Up to 1 in 5 people who survive meningitis may suffer amputations, deafness, and brain and kidney damage; 10% to 15% die, even with rapid treatment, according to the National Meningitis Association., "Nick Springer, Paralympic gold medalist, dies at 35," 24 Apr. 2021 While children and teenagers rarely suffer severe COVID-19 illness, health officials worry about their ability to transmit it to one another and then to their parents and other more vulnerable adults. Jeremy Olson, Star Tribune, "More athlete COVID-19 testing urged in Minnesota; masks in outdoor games now optional," 22 Apr. 2021 While those experiencing homelessness did suffer COVID’s aggressive spread initially, a silver lining has emerged out of the deadly pandemic. Chicago Tribune Staff,, "Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Chicago expands vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older, high school students return to classrooms," 19 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'suffer.' 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 suffer

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

History and Etymology for suffer

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

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Time Traveler for suffer

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for suffer

Last Updated

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Suffer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for suffer



English Language Learners Definition of suffer

: to experience pain, illness, or injury
: to experience something unpleasant (such as defeat, loss, or damage)
: to become worse because of being badly affected by something


suf·​fer | \ ˈsə-fər How to pronounce suffer (audio) \
suffered; suffering

Kids Definition of suffer

1 : to feel or endure pain, illness, or injury She suffers from arthritis.
2 : to experience something unpleasant Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend.— E. B. White, Charlotte's Web
3 : to bear loss or damage Business suffered during the storm.
4 : to become worse His grades are suffering.
5 : permit entry 1 sense 1 “I have done what man could. Suffer me to go.”— Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee

Other Words from suffer

sufferer \ ˈsə-​fər-​ər \ noun

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