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[eyl] /eɪl/
verb (used with object)
to cause pain, uneasiness, or trouble to.
verb (used without object)
to be unwell; feel pain; be ill:
He's been ailing for some time.
Origin of ail
before 950; Middle English ail, eilen, Old English eglan to afflict (cognate with Middle Low German egelen annoy, Gothic -agljan), derivative of egle painful; akin to Gothic agls shameful, Sanskrit aghám evil, pain
Can be confused
ale, ail, awl.
1. bother, annoy, distress. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ails
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She continued to stare for a minute, then remarked slowly: I know what ails you, Esther.

    Wheat and Huckleberries Charlotte Marion (White) Vaile
  • Why—it never can be that—old Butterby—Arthur, what ails you?

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • I don't know what ails you this morning; but if you go on this way I shall call you Professor Silex all the time.

  • I never knew you so sharp on a neighbour, Honor, before:—what ails ye?

  • I have come to succor,” I said, using unconsciously the word of the voice; “what ails you?

    A Stable for Nightmares J. Sheridan Le Fanu
British Dictionary definitions for ails


(transitive) to trouble; afflict
(intransitive) to feel unwell
Word Origin
Old English eglan to trouble, from egle troublesome, painful, related to Gothic agls shameful
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
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Word Origin and History for ails



c.1300, from Old English eglan "to trouble, plague, afflict," from Proto-Germanic *azljaz (cf. Old English egle "hideous, loathsome, troublesome, painful;" Gothic agls "shameful, disgraceful," agliþa "distress, affliction, hardship," us-agljan "to oppress, afflict"), from PIE *agh-lo-, suffixed form of root *agh- "to be depressed, be afraid." Related: Ailed; ailing; ails.

It is remarkable, that this word is never used but with some indefinite term, or the word no thing; as What ails him? ... Thus we never say, a fever ails him. [Johnson]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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