verb (used without object), ached, ach·ing.

to have or suffer a continuous, dull pain: His whole body ached.
to feel great sympathy, pity, or the like: Her heart ached for the starving animals.
to feel eager; yearn; long: She ached to be the champion. He's just aching to get even.


a continuous, dull pain (in contrast to a sharp, sudden, or sporadic pain).

Origin of ache

before 900; (v.) Middle English aken, Old English acan; perhaps metaphoric use of earlier unattested sense “drive, impel” (compare Old Norse aka, cognate with Latin agere, Greek ágein); (noun) derivative of the v.

Synonyms for ache

1. hurt.

Synonym study

4. See pain. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ache

Contemporary Examples of ache

  • Around 3am, my spindly legs are beginning to ache from balancing on deck, as we heel with each tack.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Inside Sailing’s Biggest Race

    Lizzie Crocker

    October 11, 2014

  • But the ache got worse and worse and the next time I fell I couldn't pick him up again, so I dragged him home by the leg.

  • I moved him from one shoulder to the other, trying to get rid of the ache in the muscles.

  • I miss it with an ache every day of my life, and I fear for the family I have in the Negev, where Palestinian rockets land.

    The Daily Beast logo
    For Israel—With Love And Squalor

    Emily L. Hauser

    November 15, 2012

  • If you've occupied the different points on a romantic triangle, your heart might ache just a bit thinking about these three.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Chile's Etiquette of Love

    Tracy Quan

    October 16, 2010

Historical Examples of ache

  • She had dreaded her loneliness with the ache that is despair; but she was not lonely any more.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • It made his eyes yearn for the sight of her with an ache that was physical.

  • For my own part I was now feeling the ache of numerous and severe bruises.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • Many years ago she died, but the ache comes back now, as I think of her.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • "Your father is nothing but an ache and a stound to you, lass," Sim would say in a whimper.

British Dictionary definitions for ache


verb (intr)

to feel, suffer, or be the source of a continuous dull pain
to suffer mental anguish


a continuous dull pain
Derived Formsaching, adjectiveachingly, adverb

Word Origin for ache

Old English ācan (vb), æce (n), Middle English aken (vb), ache (n). Compare bake, batch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ache

Old English acan "to ache, suffer pain," from Proto-Germanic *akanan, perhaps from a PIE root *ag-es- "fault, guilt," represented also in Sanskrit and Greek, perhaps imitative of groaning. The verb was pronounced "ake," the noun "ache" (as in speak/speech) but while the noun changed pronunciation to conform to the verb, the spelling of both was changed to ache c.1700 on a false assumption of a Greek origin (specifically Greek akhos "pain, distress," which is rather a distant relation of awe (n.)). Related: Ached; aching.


early 15c., æche, from Old English æce, from Proto-Germanic *akiz, from same source as ache (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ache in Medicine




A dull persistent pain.


To suffer a dull, sustained pain.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.