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verb (used without object)
  1. to undergo or feel pain or distress: The patient is still suffering.
  2. to sustain injury, disadvantage, or loss: One's health suffers from overwork. The business suffers from lack of capital.
  3. to undergo a penalty, as of death: The traitor was made to suffer on the gallows.
  4. to endure pain, disability, death, etc., patiently or willingly.
verb (used with object)
  1. to undergo, be subjected to, or endure (pain, distress, injury, loss, or anything unpleasant): to suffer the pangs of conscience.
  2. to undergo or experience (any action, process, or condition): to suffer change.
  3. to tolerate or allow: I do not suffer fools gladly.

Origin of suffer

1200–50; Middle English suff(e)ren < Latin sufferre, equivalent to suf- suf- + ferre to bear1; compare Old French sofrir < Vulgar Latin *sufferīre
Related formssuf·fer·a·ble, adjectivesuf·fer·a·ble·ness, nounsuf·fer·a·bly, adverbsuf·fer·er, nounnon·suf·fer·a·ble, adjectivenon·suf·fer·a·ble·ness, nounnon·suf·fer·a·bly, adverbout·suf·fer, verb (used with object)pre·suf·fer, verbun·suf·fer·a·ble, adjectiveun·suf·fer·a·ble·ness, nounun·suf·fer·a·bly, adverb

Synonyms for suffer

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for suffer

Contemporary Examples of suffer

Historical Examples of suffer

British Dictionary definitions for suffer


  1. to undergo or be subjected to (pain, punishment, etc)
  2. (tr) to undergo or experience (anything)to suffer a change of management
  3. (intr) to be set at a disadvantagethis author suffers in translation
  4. to be prepared to endure (pain, death, etc)he suffers for the cause of freedom
  5. (tr) archaic to permit (someone to do something)suffer the little children to come unto me
  6. suffer from
    1. to be ill with, esp recurrently
    2. to be given tohe suffers from a tendency to exaggerate
Derived Formssufferer, noun

Word Origin for suffer

C13: from Old French soffrir, from Latin sufferre, from sub- + ferre to bear


It is better to avoid using the words suffer and sufferer in relation to chronic illness or disability. They may be considered demeaning and disempowering. Suitable alternative are have, experience, be diagnosed with
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 suffer

early 13c., "to be made to undergo, endure" (pain, death, punishment, judgment, grief), from Anglo-French suffrir, Old French sufrir, from Vulgar Latin *sufferire, variant of Latin sufferre "to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under," from sub "up, under" (see sub-) + ferre "to carry" (see infer).

Replaced Old English þolian, þrowian. Meaning "to meekly submit to hardship" is from late 13c. That of "to undergo" (distress, suffering, etc.) is mid-14c. Meaning "to tolerate, allow" something to occur or continue is recorded from mid-13c. Related: Suffered; suffering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with suffer


see not suffer fools gladly.

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