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 Buying food is hard enough right now, but about 420,000 households across Oregon will suffer another blow as Congress ends a COVID-19 benefit that helped keep food on their tables. oregonlive, 1 Mar. 2023 How many parts of the world where people suffer deplorably right now, does every journo ignore every single day. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 1 Mar. 2023 If Lady Gaga should suffer any financial loss as a result of the lawsuit, however, McBride and the other defendants might ultimately be responsible for that loss, Hanisee said. Salvador Hernandezstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 27 Feb. 2023 This mandate is a brazen example of federal overreach, issued despite several reasons to delay, and surely no one will suffer more than America’s smallest ranchers, farmers, and home builder . . . Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 25 Feb. 2023 Gene & Jean Thibedeau, a married pair of community college professors from New Mexico who wear sensible footwear and suffer from the most extreme case of deja vu this timeline has ever seen. Lauren Huff,, 25 Feb. 2023 More grunt and a larger battery would quicken our pulse, though the Accord's still-reasonable ask and 3503-pound curb weight—already 56 pounds heavier than before—would surely suffer. Mike Sutton, Car and Driver, 24 Feb. 2023 In this case with the software issue, a corrective action means all software would show up to the plant ready to be installed in the vehicles and would no longer suffer from the same quality issue that originally halted production. Olivia Evans, The Courier-Journal, 23 Feb. 2023 By avoiding feedback and ignoring new information, leaders miss opportunities for improvement and organizations suffer from a lack of innovation and progress. Forbes, 23 Feb. 2023 See More

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.

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 26 Mar. 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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