adjective, compar. of bad and ill.

bad or ill in a greater or higher degree; inferior in excellence, quality, or character.
more unfavorable or injurious.
in less good condition; in poorer health.


that which is worse.


in a more evil, wicked, severe, or disadvantageous manner.
with more severity, intensity, etc.; in a greater degree.

Nearby words

  1. worry beads,
  2. worry wart,
  3. worryguts,
  4. worrying,
  5. worrywart,
  6. worse for wear,
  7. worsen,
  8. worser,
  9. worset,
  10. worship

Origin of worse

before 900; Middle English (adj., adv., and noun); Old English wiersa (comparative adj.), wiers (adv.); cognate with Old Norse verri, Gothic wairsiza; see war2



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

of unsound physical or mental health; unwell; sick: She felt ill, so her teacher sent her to the nurse.
objectionable; unsatisfactory; poor; faulty: ill manners.
hostile; unkindly: ill feeling.
evil; wicked; bad: of ill repute.
unfavorable; adverse: ill fortune.
of inferior worth or ability; unskillful; inexpert: an ill example of scholarship.
Slang. great; amazing: His mom is the illest cook.


an unfavorable opinion or statement: I can speak no ill of her.
harm or injury: His remarks did much ill.
trouble, distress, or misfortune: Many ills befell him.
evil: to know the difference between good and ill.
sickness or disease.


in an ill manner.
unsatisfactorily; poorly: It ill befits a man to betray old friends.
in a hostile or unfriendly manner.
unfavorably; unfortunately.
with displeasure or offense.
faultily; improperly.
with difficulty or inconvenience; scarcely: Buying a new car is an expense we can ill afford.

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)

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.

Grammar note

See well1.



adjective, worse, worst; (Slang) bad·der, bad·dest for 36.

not good in any manner or degree.
having a wicked or evil character; morally reprehensible: There is no such thing as a bad boy.
of poor or inferior quality; defective; deficient: a bad diamond; a bad spark plug.
inadequate or below standard; not satisfactory for use: bad heating; Living conditions in some areas are very bad.
inaccurate, incorrect, or faulty: a bad guess.
invalid, unsound, or false: a bad insurance claim; bad judgment.
causing or liable to cause sickness or ill health; injurious or harmful: Too much sugar is bad for your teeth.
suffering from sickness, ill health, pain, or injury; sick; ill: He felt bad from eating the green apples.
not healthy or in good physical condition; diseased, decayed, or physically weakened: A bad heart kept him out of the army.
tainted, spoiled, or rotten, especially to the point of being inedible: The meat is bad because you left it out of the refrigerator too long.
having a disastrous or detrimental effect, result, or tendency; unfavorable: The drought is bad for the farmers. His sloppy appearance made a bad impression.
causing or characterized by discomfort, inconvenience, uneasiness, or annoyance; disagreeable; unpleasant: I had a bad flight to Chicago.
easily provoked to anger; irascible: a bad temper.
cross, irritable, or surly: If I don't have my morning coffee, I'm in a bad mood all day.
more uncomfortable, persistent, painful, or dangerous than usual; severe: a bad attack of asthma.
causing or resulting in disaster or severe damage or destruction: a bad flood.
regretful, contrite, dejected, or upset: He felt bad about having to leave the children all alone.
disobedient, naughty, or misbehaving: If you're bad at school, you'll go to bed without supper.
disreputable or dishonorable: He's getting a bad name from changing jobs so often.
displaying a lack of skill, talent, proficiency, or judgment: a bad painting; Bad drivers cause most of the accidents.
causing distress; unfortunate or unfavorable: I'm afraid I have bad news for you.
not suitable or appropriate; disadvantageous or dangerous: It was a bad day for fishing.
inclement; considered too stormy, hot, cold, etc.: We had a bad winter with a lot of snow.
disagreeable or offensive to the senses: a bad odor.
exhibiting a lack of artistic sensitivity: The room was decorated in bad taste.
not in keeping with a standard of behavior or conduct; coarse: bad manners.
(of a word, speech, or writing)
  1. vulgar, obscene, or blasphemous: bad language.
  2. not properly observing rules or customs of grammar, usage, spelling, etc.; incorrect: He speaks bad English.
unattractive, especially because of a lack of pleasing proportions: She has a bad figure.
(of the complexion) marred by defects; pockmarked or pimply; blemished: bad skin.
not profitable or worth the price paid: The land was a bad buy.
Commerce. deemed uncollectible or irrecoverable and treated as a loss: a bad debt.
ill-spent; wasted: Don't throw good money after bad money.
counterfeit; not genuine: There was a bad ten-dollar bill in with the change.
having the character of a villain; villainous: In the movies the good guys always beat the bad guys.
Sports. failing to land within the in-bounds limits of a court or section of a court; missing the mark; not well aimed.
Slang. outstandingly excellent; first-rate: He's a bad man on drums, and the fans love him.


that which is bad: You have to take the bad with the good.
a bad condition, character, or quality: His health seemed to go from bad to worse.
(used with a plural verb) evil persons collectively (usually preceded by the): The bad are always stirring up trouble.

adverb Informal.

badly: He wanted it bad enough to steal it.

Origin of bad

1250–1300; Middle English badde, perhaps akin to Old English bæddel hermaphrodite, bædling womanish man

Related formsbad·ness, noun

Synonym study

2. Bad, evil, ill, wicked are closest in meaning in reference to that which is lacking in moral qualities or is actually vicious and reprehensible. Bad is the broadest and simplest term: a bad man; bad habits. Evil applies to that which violates or leads to the violation of moral law: evil practices. Ill now appears mainly in certain fixed expressions, with a milder implication than that in evil: ill will; ill-natured. Wicked implies willful and determined doing of what is very wrong: a wicked plan.

Usage note

The adjective bad meaning “unpleasant, unattractive, unfavorable, spoiled, etc.,” is the usual form to follow such copulative verbs as sound, smell, look, and taste: After the rainstorm the water tasted bad. The coach says the locker room smells bad. After the copulative verb feel, the adjective badly in reference to physical or emotional states is also used and is standard, although bad is more common in formal writing: I feel bad from overeating. She felt badly about her friend's misfortune.
When the adverbial use is required, badly is standard with all verbs: She reacted badly to the criticism. Bad as an adverb appears mainly in informal contexts: I didn't do too bad on the tests. He wants money so bad it hurts. See also badly, good.



adverb, worse, worst.

in a defective, incorrect, or undesirable way: The car runs badly.
in an unsatisfactory, inadequate, or unskilled manner: a vague, badly written letter; He paints badly.
unfavorably: His neighbors spoke badly of him. The weather turned out badly for the cruise.
in a wicked, evil, or morally or legally wrong way.
in a disobedient, naughty, or ethically or socially wrong way: He treats his parents badly.
very much; to a great extent or degree: a house badly in need of repair; to want something badly.
severely; direly: to be injured badly.
with great distress, resentment, regret, or emotional display: She took the news of her mother's death badly.


in ill health; sick: He felt badly.
sorry; regretful: I feel badly about your reaction to my remark.
dejected; downcast.

Origin of badly

First recorded in 1350–1400, badly is from the Middle English word baddeli. See bad1, -ly

Can be confusedbad badly (see usage note at bad1) (see usage note at the current entry)

Usage note

In the sense “very much,” badly is fully standard: He needs help badly.

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

Examples from the Web for worse

British Dictionary definitions for worse



the comparative of bad 1
none the worse for not harmed by (adverse events or circumstances)
the worse for wear
  1. shabby or worn
  2. a slang term for drunk
worse luck! informal unhappily; unfortunately
worse off (postpositive) in a worse, esp a worse financial, condition


something that is worse
for the worse into a less desirable or inferior state or conditiona change for the worse
go from bad to worse to deteriorate even more


in a more severe or unpleasant manner
in a less effective or successful manner

Word Origin for worse

Old English wiersa; related to Old Frisian werra, Old High German wirsiro, Old Norse verri, Gothic wairsiza


adverb worse or worst

poorly; defectively; inadequatelythe chair is badly made
unfavourably; unsuccessfully; unfortunatelyour scheme worked out badly
severely; gravelyhe was badly hurt
incorrectly or inaccuratelyto speak German badly
improperly; naughtily; wickedlyto behave badly
without humanity; cruellyto treat someone badly
very much (esp in the phrases need badly, badly in need of, want badly)
regretfullyhe felt badly about it
badly off poor; impoverished


(postpositive) Northern English dialect ill; poorly


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



adjective worse or worst

not good; of poor quality; inadequate; inferiorbad workmanship; bad soil; bad light for reading
(often foll by at) lacking skill or talent; incompetenta bad painter; bad at sports
(often foll by for) harmfulbad air; smoking is bad for you
immoral; evila bad life
naughty; mischievous; disobedienta bad child
rotten; decayed; spoileda bad egg
severe; intensea bad headache
incorrect; wrong; faultybad pronunciation
ill or in pain (esp in the phrase feel bad)
regretful, sorry, or upset (esp in the phrase feel bad about)
unfavourable; distressingbad news; a bad business
offensive; unpleasant; disagreeablebad language; bad temper
not valid or sound; voida bad cheque
not recoverablea bad debt
badder or baddest slang good; excellent
go from bad to worse to deteriorate even more
go bad to putrefy; spoil
in a bad way informal
  1. seriously ill, through sickness or injury
  2. in trouble of any kind
in someone's bad books See book (def. 21)
make the best of a bad job to manage as well as possible in unfavourable circumstances
not bad or not so bad informal passable; fair; fairly good
not half bad informal very good
too bad informal (often used dismissively) regrettable


unfortunate or unpleasant events collectively (often in the phrase take the bad with the good)
an immoral or degenerate state (often in the phrase go to the bad)
the debit side of an account£200 to the bad
my bad US and Canadian informal my fault or mistake


not standard badlyto want something bad
Derived Formsbaddish, adjectivebadness, noun

Word Origin for bad

C13: probably from bæd-, as the first element of Old English bǣddel hermaphrodite, bǣdling sodomite




a variant of bade
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 worse
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for worse




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 worse


In addition to the idiom beginning with worse

  • worse for wear

also see:

  • all the (worse)
  • bark is worse than one's bite
  • fate worse than death
  • for better or for worse
  • from bad to worse
  • if worst comes to worst
  • none the worse
  • take a turn for the better (worse)

Also see underworst.


In addition to the idioms beginning with bad

  • bad blood
  • bad egg
  • bad hair day
  • bad luck
  • badly off
  • bad mouth
  • bad name
  • bad news
  • bad off
  • bad sort, a
  • bad taste
  • bad time
  • bad trip

also see:

  • come to an end (bad end)
  • feel bad
  • from bad to worse
  • get off on the wrong foot (to a bad start)
  • give a bad name
  • give bad marks to
  • go bad
  • in a bad mood
  • in a bad way
  • in bad faith
  • in bad with someone
  • in someone's bad graces
  • leave a bad taste in one's mouth
  • make the best of (a bad bargain)
  • not a bad sort
  • not bad
  • poor (bad) taste
  • run of (bad) luck
  • too bad
  • turn up (like a bad penny)
  • with bad grace


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.