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.

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

Dictionary.com Unabridged


1 [bad]
adjective, worse, worst; (Slang) badder, baddest 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.
vulgar, obscene, or blasphemous: bad language.
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.
bad off, in poor or distressed condition or circumstances; destitute: His family has been pretty bad off since he lost his job. Also, badly off. Compare well-off.
go to the bad, to deteriorate physically or morally; go to ruin: She wept at seeing her son go to the bad.
in a bad way, in severe trouble or distress.
in bad, Informal.
in trouble or distress.
in disfavor: He's in bad with his father-in-law.
my bad, Slang. my fault! my mistake!
not bad,
tolerably good; not without merit: The dinner wasn't bad, but I've had better.
not difficult: Once you know geometry, trigonometry isn't bad.
Also, not so bad, not too bad.
too bad, unfortunate or disappointing: It's too bad that he didn't go to college.
to the bad, in arrears: He's $100 to the bad on his debt.

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

badness, noun

2. depraved, corrupt, base, sinful, criminal, atrocious. 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. 10. putrefied. 21. adverse, unlucky, unhappy.

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.
badly off. bad ( def 47 ).

1350–1400; Middle English baddeli. See bad1, -ly

bad, badly (see usage note at bad)(see usage note at the current entry).

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


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

1150–1200; Middle English ill(e) (noun and adj.) < Old Norse illr (adj.) ill, bad

ill, sick (see synonym study at the current entry).

1. unhealthy, ailing, diseased, afflicted. 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. wrong, iniquitous. See bad1. 8. hurt, pain, affliction, misery. 9. calamity. 10. depravity. 11. illness, affliction. 13. badly.

1. well, healthy. 4. good.

See well1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To worse
World English Dictionary
bad1 (bæd)
adj , worse, worst, badder, baddest
1.  not good; of poor quality; inadequate; inferior: bad workmanship; bad soil; bad light for reading
2.  (often foll by at) lacking skill or talent; incompetent: a bad painter; bad at sports
3.  (often foll by for) harmful: bad air; smoking is bad for you
4.  immoral; evil: a bad life
5.  naughty; mischievous; disobedient: a bad child
6.  rotten; decayed; spoiled: a bad egg
7.  severe; intense: a bad headache
8.  incorrect; wrong; faulty: bad pronunciation
9.  ill or in pain (esp in the phrase feel bad)
10.  regretful, sorry, or upset (esp in the phrase feel bad about)
11.  unfavourable; distressing: bad news; a bad business
12.  offensive; unpleasant; disagreeable: bad language; bad temper
13.  not valid or sound; void: a bad cheque
14.  not recoverable: a bad debt
15.  slang good; excellent
16.  go from bad to worse to deteriorate even more
17.  go bad to putrefy; spoil
18.  informal in a bad way
 a.  seriously ill, through sickness or injury
 b.  in trouble of any kind
19.  in someone's bad books See book
20.  make the best of a bad job to manage as well as possible in unfavourable circumstances
21.  informal not bad, not so bad passable; fair; fairly good
22.  informal not half bad very good
23.  informal too bad (often used dismissively) regrettable
24.  unfortunate or unpleasant events collectively (often in the phrase take the bad with the good)
25.  an immoral or degenerate state (often in the phrase go to the bad)
26.  the debit side of an account: £200 to the bad
27.  informal (US), (Canadian) my bad my fault or mistake
28.  not standard badly: to want something bad
[C13: probably from bæd-, as the first element of Old English bǣddel hermaphrodite, bǣdling sodomite]

bad2 (bæd)
a variant of bade

badly (ˈbædlɪ)
adv , worse, worst
1.  poorly; defectively; inadequately: the chair is badly made
2.  unfavourably; unsuccessfully; unfortunately: our scheme worked out badly
3.  severely; gravely: he was badly hurt
4.  incorrectly or inaccurately: to speak German badly
5.  improperly; naughtily; wickedly: to behave badly
6.  without humanity; cruelly: to treat someone badly
7.  very much (esp in the phrases need badly, badly in need of, want badly)
8.  regretfully: he felt badly about it
9.  badly off poor; impoverished
10.  dialect (Northern English) (postpositive) ill; poorly

ill (ɪl)
adj , worse, worst
1.  (usually postpositive) not in good health; sick
2.  characterized by or intending evil, harm, etc; hostile: ill deeds
3.  causing or resulting in pain, harm, adversity, etc: ill effects
4.  ascribing or imputing evil to something referred to: ill repute
5.  promising an unfavourable outcome; unpropitious: an ill omen
6.  harsh; lacking kindness: ill will
7.  not up to an acceptable standard; faulty: ill manners
8.  ill at ease unable to relax; uncomfortable
9.  evil or harm: to wish a person ill
10.  a mild disease
11.  misfortune; trouble
12.  badly: the title ill befits him
13.  with difficulty; hardly: he can ill afford the money
14.  not rightly: she ill deserves such good fortune
[C11 (in the sense: evil): from Old Norse illr bad]

worse (wɜːs)
1.  the comparative of bad
2.  none the worse for not harmed by (adverse events or circumstances)
3.  the worse for wear
 a.  shabby or worn
 b.  a slang term for drunk
4.  informal worse luck! unhappily; unfortunately
5.  (postpositive) worse off in a worse, esp a worse financial, condition
6.  something that is worse
7.  for the worse into a less desirable or inferior state or condition: a change for the worse
8.  go from bad to worse to deteriorate even more
9.  in a more severe or unpleasant manner
10.  in a less effective or successful manner
[Old English wiersa; related to Old Frisian werra, Old High German wirsiro, Old Norse verri, Gothic wairsiza]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

c.1200, a mystery word with no apparent relatives in other languages.* Possibly from O.E. derogatory term bæddel and its dim. bædling "effeminate man, hermaphrodite, pederast," probably related to bædan "to defile." Originally "defective, inferior;" sense of "evil, morally depraved"
is first recorded c.1300. A rare word before 1400, and evil was more common in this sense until c.1700. Comparable words in the other I.E. languages tend to have grown from descriptions of specific qualities, such as "ugly," "defective," "weak," "faithless," "impudent," "crooked," "filthy" (e.g. Gk. kakos, probably from the word for "excrement;" Rus. plochoj, related to O.C.S. plachu "wavering, timid;" Pers. gast, O.Pers. gasta-, related to gand "stench;" Ger. schlecht, originally "level, straight, smooth," whence "simple, ordinary," then "bad"). Comparative and superlative forms badder, baddest were common 14c.-18c. and used as recently as Defoe (but not by Shakespeare), but yielded to comp. worse and superl. worst (which had belonged to evil and ill). In U.S. place names, sometimes translating native terms meaning "supernaturally dangerous." Ironic use as a word of approval is said to be at least since 1890s orally, originally in Black Eng., emerging in print 1928 in a jazz context. It might have emerged from the ambivalence of expressions like bad nigger, used as a term of reproach by whites, but among blacks sometimes representing one who stood up to injustice, but in the U.S. West bad man also had a certain ambivalence:
"These are the men who do most of the killing in frontier communities, yet it is a noteworthy fact that the men who are killed generally deserve their fate." [Farmer & Henley]
*Farsi has bad in more or less the same sense as the English word, but this is regarded by linguists as a coincidence. The forms of the words diverge as they are traced back in time (Farsi bad comes from M.Pers. vat), and such accidental convergences exist across many languages, given the vast number of words in each and the limited range of sounds humans can make to signify them. Among other coincidental matches with English are Korean mani "many," Chinese pei "pay," Nahuatl (Aztecan) huel "well," Maya hol "hole."

c.1200, "morally evil" (other 13c. senses were "malevolent, hurtful, unfortunate, difficult"), from O.N. illr "ill, bad," of unknown origin. Not related to evil. Main modern sense of "sick, unhealthy, unwell" is first recorded c.1460, probably related to O.N. idiom "it is bad to me." Illness "disease,
sickness" is from 1689. Slang sense of "very good, cool" is 1980s.

O.E. wiersa, wyrsa, from P.Gmc. *wers-izon- (cf. O.S. wirs, O.N. verri, Swed. värre, O.Fris. wirra, O.H.G. wirsiro, Goth. wairsiza "worse"), comparative of PIE *wers- "to confuse, mix up" (cf. O.H.G. werra "strife," O.S. werran "to entangle, compound;" see war). Used as
a comparative of bad, evil, ill or as the opposite of better. Phrase for better or for worse is attested from 1390 (for bet, for wers); to change for the worse is recorded from c.1400.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

ill (ĭl)
adj. worse (wûrs), worst (wûrst)

  1. Not healthy; sick.

  2. 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.
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American Heritage
Abbreviations & Acronyms
French Banque africaine de développement (African Development Bank)
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with worse, 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 under worst.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Unfortunately, colleges often make matters worse by hiding behind
  technicalities and acting with arrogance.
Worse yet, the junk already in space is making more junk.
Intriguingly, these bright students did much worse when they considered it an
  intelligence test.
The air in many national wilderness wonderlands is getting worse.
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