adjective, worse, worst; ill·er, ill·est for 7.




    ill at ease, socially uncomfortable; nervous: They were ill at ease because they didn't speak the language.

Origin of ill

1150–1200; Middle English ill(e) (noun and adj.) < Old Norse illr (adj.) ill, bad
Can be confusedill sick1 (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for ill

Synonym study

1. Ill, sick mean being in bad health, not being well. Ill is the more formal word. In the U.S. the two words are used practically interchangeably except that sick is always used when the word modifies the following noun: He looks sick ( ill ); a sick person. In England, sick is not interchangeable with ill, but usually has the connotation of nauseous: She got sick and threw up. sick, however, is used before nouns just as in the U.S.: a sick man. 4. See bad1.

Antonyms for ill

1. well, healthy. 4. good.

Grammar note

See well1. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ills

Contemporary Examples of ills

Historical Examples of ills

  • I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless: Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.

  • It was and is intended by her for the stomachs of men, to cure all the ills of mankind.

  • Pat is more occupied with the bright present than with past ills.

    The Elm Tree Tales

    F. Irene Burge Smith

  • And the soul which we behold is in a similar condition, disfigured by ten thousand ills.

  • My head so pillowed and a saint from Heaven ministering to my ills?


    Raphael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for ills


adjective worse or worst

(usually postpositive) not in good health; sick
characterized by or intending evil, harm, etc; hostileill deeds
causing or resulting in pain, harm, adversity, etcill effects
ascribing or imputing evil to something referred toill repute
promising an unfavourable outcome; unpropitiousan ill omen
harsh; lacking kindnessill will
not up to an acceptable standard; faultyill manners
ill at ease unable to relax; uncomfortable


evil or harmto wish a person ill
a mild disease
misfortune; trouble


badlythe title ill befits him
with difficulty; hardlyhe can ill afford the money
not rightlyshe ill deserves such good fortune

Word Origin for ill

C11 (in the sense: evil): from Old Norse illr bad
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 ills



c.1200, "morally evil" (other 13c. senses were "malevolent, hurtful, unfortunate, difficult"), from Old Norse illr "ill, bad," of unknown origin. Not related to evil. Main modern sense of "sick, unhealthy, unwell" is first recorded mid-15c., probably related to Old Norse idiom "it is bad to me." Slang inverted sense of "very good, cool" is 1980s. As a noun, "something evil," from mid-13c.



early 13c., "to do evil to," from ill (adj.). Meaing "to speak disparagingly" is from 1520s. Related: Illed; illing.



c.1200, "wickedly; with hostility;" see ill (adj.). Meaning "not well, poorly" is from c.1300. It generally has not shifted to the realm of physical sickess, as the adjective has done. Ill-fated recorded from 1710; ill-informed from 1824; ill-tempered from c.1600; ill-starred from c.1600. Generally contrasted with well, hence the useful, but now obsolete or obscure illcome (1570s), illfare (c.1300), and illth.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ills in Medicine




Not healthy; sick.
Not normal, as a condition; unsound.


A disease or illness, especially of animals.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with ills


In addition to the idioms beginning with ill

  • ill at ease
  • ill wind that blows no one any good, it's an

, also see under

  • get sick
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.