Definition of ache in English:



  • 1A continuous or prolonged dull pain in a part of one's body.

    ‘the ache in her head worsened’
    mass noun ‘he had stomach ache’
    • ‘She can work on the body, relieving it of stress, aches and pain.’
    • ‘Those who contract the virus and do show symptoms typically suffer from mild fever and head and body aches.’
    • ‘By some estimates, half of the patients doctors see for various common body aches are actually expressing psychological distress through physical pain.’
    • ‘He tried to sit up but the aches in his body made him lie back flat on the bed.’
    • ‘Also, 90% of the children are prone to respiratory disorders, damaged sight, tuberculosis and chronic body aches.’
    • ‘It is also, apparently, good for easing muscular aches and has mentally stimulating properties.’
    • ‘If your teenage child complains day in and day out of various aches, pains, headaches and tiredness, don't always blow them off and assume they just don't want to go to school.’
    • ‘She got out of bed, her body protesting with aches and stiffness.’
    • ‘Stresses and strains usually manifest on a subtle level at first - tension headaches, fatigue, muscular aches, disturbed sleep etc.’
    • ‘Symptoms of influenza differ from the common cold and can consist of fever with chills, fatigue, generalized muscle and body aches, headache, cough and sore throat.’
    • ‘They reckon that the aches, pains and illnesses that now afflict the fortysomethings will be unknown to this new generation until they're in their 70s.’
    • ‘Other symptoms may include headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches.’
    • ‘We listened to more Berber wisdom; their main cure, apart from the garlic, being the wonderment of first pressing olive oil for everything from backache to stomach aches.’
    • ‘His nightmares, insomnia, poor memory, fatigue, and irascibility became worse, and he developed headaches, musculoskeletal aches, and dyspepsia.’
    • ‘Had any twinges, aches, discombobulations lately, or even an angry tooth?’
    • ‘You may first feel like you have flu symptoms: fever, chills, and body aches.’
    • ‘These reactions may include muscle aches, joint aches, chills, low-grade fever, decreased appetite, headaches, nausea and swollen glands.’
    • ‘I felt a painful ache in my chest and my air was getting cut off.’
    • ‘Signs of West Nile illness include severe headaches, rashes and body aches.’
    • ‘It is no secret that the aches and pains from a day exerting one's self in the garden can resemble the muscle fatigue and aches that can be generated while playing sport.’
    pain, dull pain, pang, twinge, throb
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    1. 1.1in singular An emotion experienced with painful or bittersweet intensity.
      ‘an ache in her heart’
      • ‘No tears had fallen and there was still a deep ache in my heart.’
      • ‘She supposed she had to be happy for him, despite the ache in her heart.’
      • ‘It is regularly derided as one of the worst songs in musical history, but it still gives me a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart.’
      • ‘Their death always leaves an ache in the heart which can take a long time to heal.’
      • ‘Wilson arouses a tender ache in the heart at the dreadful prospect of all the losses through exploitation; and then changes his approach in proposing a solution.’
      • ‘Her smile of ecstasy vanished, and she felt an empty ache in her heart.’
      • ‘Unhappy endings linger in your mind, leaving an ache in your heart and a problem to resolve.’
      • ‘At the end you want to rush out of the theatre into the sunshine, raise your arms to the heavens and wait for lightning to strike you, just to relieve the ache in your heart.’
      • ‘An immigrant arriving today would feel the ache of nostalgia less because there are so many celebrations here now.’
      • ‘Kent endured the bitter ache of wanting to say something to Charles for a very long time.’
      • ‘And now there is an intense ache where he was, where he would have been in all these things.’
      • ‘It's more brazen, more shot through with the raw ache of relationships and the nakedness of emotional experience.’
      • ‘The painful ache of regrets and bygones slowly fade into a mixture of brandy and honey.’
      • ‘It seemed then a meager justification for manipulating my little brain and heart, yet an ache for wild beauty does command me.’
      • ‘But surprisingly to her, the painful ache in her heart did not come, nor did tears well up in her eyes.’
      • ‘Time reduces the ache and discomfort while memory renders the emotion denser and purer.’
      • ‘There's a sense of nostalgia, an indefinable ache, that crystallises the artist's repertoire at a certain point in time.’
      • ‘Beth watched the pair of them, father and son, the scene evoking an ache of tenderness in her.’
      • ‘I think of Gail and, at once, as painful ache in my chest materialises.’
      • ‘Her hand was throbbing painfully, but it was nothing compared to the ache in her heart.’
      sorrow, sadness, misery, grief, anguish, suffering, pain, agony, torture, wretchedness, distress, hurt, affliction, woe, mourning
      longing, yearning, craving, desire, pining, hankering, hunger, hungering, thirst, itch, burning
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[no object]
  • 1Suffer from a continuous dull pain.

    ‘my legs ached from the previous day's exercise’
    ‘I'm aching all over’
    • ‘Then we walked back to Hall, which was well over 3 miles mainly uphill: no wonder my feet are aching!’
    • ‘She is talking up a storm and making my stomach ache with laughter.’
    • ‘When you wake up, you're in pain, aching all over, your eyes are stinging from the light and you're hungry.’
    • ‘By the time I got home this past Saturday night I had a fever and ached all over as if something evil had infected me.’
    • ‘When my back starts to ache, I'll carry my laptop downstairs and work standing up on the counter in my kitchen.’
    • ‘My knees ache, my legs are in a tangle, and every inch of my untoned body feels as if it has been put through a vigorous exercise routine.’
    • ‘My back was aching, my legs were going nerve-dead, and every last bit of energy in me was drained.’
    • ‘But these classes seem to exhaust me and my feet ache like mad, half way through the class I start to feel sick.’
    • ‘Annie's head ached, her ribs hurt from coughing, and the simple act of craning her neck to peer through a clear spot on the windshield made her dizzy.’
    • ‘My wife is still very sore, she's very distressed, her cheekbone is aching.’
    • ‘My ears ache, my legs ache, when I lie down my head fills up with liquid.’
    • ‘His chest muscles ached and he continued to pant.’
    • ‘By now I was bed-bound, unable to think straight, aching continually with what appeared to be a consistent low-grade flu.’
    • ‘I was coughing, and my right arm was aching.’
    • ‘All the muscles in my legs are aching, some six hours after finishing, which can't be good.’
    • ‘She was experiencing headaches, severe back and rib pain and pretty much ached from head to toe.’
    • ‘Our legs were beginning to ache so we decided to call it a day.’
    painful, achy, sore, stiff, hurt, tender, uncomfortable, troublesome
    hurt, be sore, be painful, be in pain, throb, pound, twinge
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    1. 1.1 Feel intense sadness or compassion.
      ‘she sat still and silent, her heart aching’
      ‘she looked so tired that my heart ached for her’
      • ‘Jack winced, and my heart ached for him, knowing what was going through his head.’
      • ‘He heart ached for his life and the sadness she felt was far deeper than the pain in her leg or arm.’
      • ‘My heart ached for him as I heard the desperation in his voice.’
      • ‘Even though it was inevitable, her heart still ached for him.’
      • ‘Everyone in the building could see that that woman was dying, and my heart ached for Valentine and her family.’
      • ‘The effect is not just to make you ache with sadness at what these women have undergone.’
      • ‘My heart has ached for these helpless mothers and for the little unwelcome babes when I have taken them into my arms.’
      • ‘His insides aching with sadness, Arthur did as she'd requested and then perched on the edge of his aunt's bed.’
      • ‘His heart ached for her, and he wanted so much to protect her.’
      • ‘His heart ached for her immediately; he didn't mean to let her feel this way.’
      • ‘Background information on the astronauts filtered in, and your heart ached for the families of those who were lost.’
      • ‘Mona's heart ached for her mother - why couldn't she see that all these boyfriends weren't helping her at all?’
      • ‘Most of all, my soul is aching with pain and disbelief.’
      • ‘My heart ached for the poor girl, but it was, after all, her fault.’
      • ‘Our hearts ache, we count the days, we weep with her family, sharing their pain and sorrow.’
      • ‘Cameron's heart ached for this poor girl; she looked so hurt when she talked about it.’
      • ‘But while his wife, manager and supporters ached with pain when he was given another red card, the rest of us secretly shrieked with delight.’
      • ‘My heart ached for both Jake and Gracie and it was getting to me.’
      • ‘That had been less than a year ago, and Inger's tender heart ached for the child's obvious yearning for comfort.’
      • ‘His face was all red, his lip was bleeding and my heart ached for him.’
      sorrowful, sad, mournful, miserable, upset, distressed, anguished, heavy with grief, grief-stricken, wretched, heavy
      grieve, sorrow, be sorrowful, be sad, be distressed, be in distress, be miserable, mourn, be mournful, lament, agonize, anguish, be in anguish, suffer, bleed
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    2. 1.2 Feel an intense desire for.
      ‘she ached for his touch’
      with infinitive ‘he was aching to get his hands on the ball’
      • ‘The familiar feelings of longing returned, and his heart ached for her.’
      • ‘Having golfed for a week in Scotland the week before I was aching to play.’
      • ‘We were aching with a desire to see a winner.’
      • ‘Sometimes my heart ached for England, but I knew that if I ever returned there again, my life would not be the same.’
      • ‘Clare, who ached for her new - and very sick and needy - baby, was restricted to seeing Luke for two hours a day.’
      • ‘I ached to be back with him and, after weeks of pleading, I agreed to give our marriage another go.’
      • ‘After all, she ached for him when they spent all those months apart.’
      • ‘The new album is full of songs that we've been aching to play live since we finished recording, so April can't come around soon enough for us.’
      • ‘Anthea has not been on the television for years so is aching to get back into the limelight.’
      • ‘Her heart ached for him in a way it never had or would for Dorian.’
      • ‘How long her heart had ached for a hand to hold, for someone to call her own.’
      • ‘Although she ached with desire for him, Krystal was glad she would have time to plan the perfect romantic evening for them.’
      long for, yearn for, hunger for, thirst for, hanker for, hanker after, pine for, pine after, itch for, be desperate for, be unable to wait for
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  • aches and pains

    • Minor pains and discomforts, typically in the muscles.

      • ‘I still get aches and pains in my muscles but what could have happened when the car fell just doesn't bear thinking about.’
      • ‘Sir Evelyn said despite a few sore backs and minor aches and pains, the ride had been a great success.’
      • ‘Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.’
      • ‘She sat up wincing in pain at the aches and pains in her body.’
      • ‘However, now he had returned to England, he had developed generalised muscle aches and pains and a vague malaise.’
      • ‘It's good for muscular aches and pains, sinusitis, minor chest complaints and for when your immune system needs a bit of a boost.’
      • ‘Common symptoms include cramps in the legs, and aches and pains in the muscles, headaches and eye pains.’
      • ‘Magnesium can help keep muscles supple and prevent aches and pains, and may also lower the risk of osteoporosis.’
      • ‘The signs of cold or flu are sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, fever, or minor aches and pains.’
      • ‘There's been a real touch of heat in it all day, lifting the spirits and driving minor aches and pains away.’


Old English æce (noun), acan (verb). In Middle English and early modern English the noun was spelled atche and rhymed with ‘batch’ and the verb was spelled and pronounced as it is today. The noun began to be pronounced like the verb around 1700. The modern spelling is largely due to Dr Johnson, who mistakenly assumed its derivation to be from Greek akhos ‘pain’.