Definition of ill in English:



  • 1Not in full health; sick.

    ‘her daughter is seriously ill’
    [with submodifier] ‘a terminally ill patient’
    • ‘On the occasion his mother had taken ill and he was trying to get assistance for her.’
    • ‘Terminally ill patients slowly become worse as the disease takes over their body until it kills them.’
    • ‘Two other patients are critically ill after contracting the disease through infected organs from the donor.’
    • ‘Haemophiliacs are ill and are suffering and time is not on our side.’
    • ‘As soon as John had taken ill, she had written to him.’
    • ‘She was very ill and bore her suffering with great dignity.’
    • ‘Perhaps you are living with someone who is ill with a life-threatening disease.’
    • ‘Some years ago I was called to attend a man I did not know who had taken ill very suddenly.’
    • ‘Along with morphine, it was prescribed to chronically ill patients suffering everything from asthma to diarrhoea.’
    • ‘Around one in ten people who are infected with amoebiasis become ill from the disease.’
    • ‘Everything's just fine now, he reassured them, except that the design isn't finished and the architect is mysteriously taken ill.’
    • ‘She had taken ill long ago, only a few years after they had married.’
    • ‘Infectious complications in critically ill patients can cause increased morbidity and mortality.’
    • ‘One came to the aid of an elderly man taken ill at a bus stop.’
    • ‘Siti said that volunteers should also understand that terminally ill patients usually suffer from psychological strain due to their illness.’
    • ‘Leaders of our medical organisations should not allow informed consent to interfere with clinical management of infectious disease or seriously ill patients.’
    • ‘There is no requirement that the suffering be physical or that the patient be terminally ill.’
    • ‘A woman terminally ill with motor neurone disease will next week begin a High Court battle to win the right to die, it was announced yesterday.’
    • ‘The major reason for the redesign of services is to ensure the best possible care for critically ill patients as well as those with less serious illness and injuries.’
    • ‘He said it was reasonable to believe the water had not been contaminated before the period in question because no-one prior to that period had taken ill.’
    unwell, sick, not well, not very well, ailing, poorly, sickly, peaky, afflicted, indisposed, infirm, liverish
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  • 2[attributive] Poor in quality.

    ‘ill judgment dogs the unsuccessful’
    • ‘It was because of her ill judgment.’
    • ‘Is their any provision to ban an umpire for his attitude problems and making of ill decisions?’
    bad, poor, unsatisfactory, incompetent, unacceptable, inadequate, deficient, defective, faulty, unskilful, inexpert, amateurish
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    1. 2.1Harmful.
      ‘she had a cup of the same wine and suffered no ill effects’
      • ‘What is highly disputed, however, is the dose of radiation that will result in ill effects.’
      • ‘I have always known the ill effects of smoking but did not know how harmful it could be.’
      • ‘For most otherwise healthy people the virus, while debilitating in the short term, leaves no lasting ill effects.’
      • ‘To the normal ill effects of heavy summer rainfall is added direct physical damage to the vines and fruit.’
      • ‘And the cats both survived the stay in the cattery without too many ill effects.’
      • ‘Compared to the convenience of the tool, the ill effect of spam is very serious.’
      • ‘The ill effects included foetal hypoxia and death, neo-natal jaundice and several such complications.’
      • ‘But Mr Briggs said safeguards would be put in place to control the ill effects of gambling.’
      • ‘Some of the exhibits clearly illustrated the ill effects of pollution on public health.’
      • ‘The new government will be pressed to reconcile religious conflicts and work out a policy that is considerate of the poor and mitigates the ill effects of economic growth.’
      • ‘Teenagers would be made aware of the ill effects of smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse.’
      • ‘However, the average life of an Indian was 62 as the ill effects of cancer were visible only at a later stage in life.’
      • ‘Therefore, if we are foolhardy enough to tax the desirable voluntary activities of individuals and firms, we should expect the ill effects to be numerous and serious.’
      • ‘The ill effects of that ad campaign still lingers on and won't be eradicated in the short term.’
      • ‘But as time went on you couldn't help noticing the ill effects.’
      • ‘Getting out to an exercise class is a good way of releasing stress and reducing the ill effects of it.’
      • ‘The wife admitted that she and her husband had frequently had potted meat from the shop without ill effects.’
      • ‘And that's part of trying to educate people about drugs and warn them about the ill effects of drugs.’
      • ‘But care need to be taken to reduce the ill effects of computers as far as possible.’
      • ‘By far the most serious ill effect of the sun is skin cancer.’
      harmful, damaging, detrimental, deleterious, adverse, injurious, hurtful, destructive, pernicious, inimical, dangerous, ruinous, calamitous, disastrous, malign, malignant
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    2. 2.2Hostile.
      ‘it did give rise to a lot of ill feelings’
    3. 2.3(especially of fortune) not favorable.
      ‘no one less deserved such ill fortune than McStay’
      • ‘For his ill fortune alone, defeat was unthinkable.’
      • ‘While Cleary was one of the great scrum-halves of his generation, ill fortune declared he never got to pull on the green jersey in a full international.’
      • ‘This clearly implies, my correspondent asserts, that there is only one wheelchair available for use for every five passengers who have had the ill luck to be stood on.’
      • ‘To cap Flanagan's misfortune, he punctured with 15 miles to go and there was an immediate charge from the front of his bunch, capitalising on his ill luck.’
      • ‘We had planned a trip to Bangalore but as ill luck would have it, one of my internal exams has now been scheduled right in the middle of the little break I was banking on.’
      • ‘We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.’
      • ‘Typical of their ill luck was a penalty, awarded for a foot block on Knight, but which was blasted narrowly wide by Ward, who was having such an outstanding game.’
      • ‘Maguire missed four of the last Cheltenham Festivals due to ill fortune.’
      • ‘Sheba had a double dose of ill fortune in her short life.’
      • ‘During that journey, we once again encounter an ill omen in nature: in this instance, a turtle trapped on its back beneath a big rock.’
      • ‘Since the earliest times, man has gazed skyward, hoping to discern signs of good or ill fortune in the patterns of the stars.’
      • ‘As explained elsewhere, the trip to Brisbane, or more precisely the trip back, was a journey of ill omen for young Les as it threw him into the close company of Tim O'Sullivan.’
      • ‘More than 50 years of constant US intervention have led to a plethora of ill fortune in the region.’
      • ‘They usually employed various psychological techniques to cope with and often even thrive upon any ill fortune that came their way.’
      • ‘The symbol is formed from the shape of a cross, with the arms bent to the right symbolising health and life, or to the left, which came to symbolise ill fortune.’
      • ‘We have posted every published story regarding the riot because we thought that in many respects it was an omen of ill tidings for Minneapolis.’
      • ‘Cursing their ill luck, the ad men are spending extra money to remove these posters to make the hoardings visible.’
      • ‘Naturally, Gurley was disappointed but rather than brood over his ill luck he decided to refocus on qualifying himself academically.’
      • ‘Drug rehab, ill fortune or the vagaries of life may have some part to play in this, but spurts of activity have at least resulted in a handful of albums that bask in the glow that only rarity can bestow.’
      • ‘Is this an ill omen, I wonder, or some kind of inner-city voodoo ritual?’
      unlucky, adverse, unfavourable, unfortunate, unpropitious, inauspicious, unpromising, infelicitous, bad, gloomy
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  • 1[usually in combination] Badly, wrongly, or imperfectly.

    ‘some of his premises seem ill-chosen’
    ‘it ill becomes one so beautiful to be gloomy’
    • ‘I suspect that it was imported to Korea within the last 600 years as Korea's climate is ill suited for the Mugunghwa, which thrives in the tropics.’
    • ‘The big worry is that the cash-strapped Irish health service is ill equipped to deal with an epidemic of any form, least of all a potentially fatal virus like SARS.’
    • ‘The Russians' military is very weak, very poor, very ill trained.’
    • ‘Would you risk the future success of your business on a bottle of homemade possibly ill tasting wine or would you have bottles of quality wine on hand to serve to your guests?’
    • ‘His disastrous management of the 1993 federal election showed that he was hopelessly out of his depth and totally ill equipped for the task.’
    • ‘Moreover, it is ill prepared to deal with any possible use of weapons.’
    • ‘It seemed as if people were competing with each other for an imaginary prize for being the most rowdy and ill mannered human being in that room.’
    • ‘There will be those who will claim that that this first failure shows that they are ill suited to running club nights.’
    • ‘The Bosnian government was ill prepared to defend the country with no army and only a poorly equipped territorial defense force.’
    • ‘If he finds himself similarly ill informed on other issues, he is welcome to write to me and I will try to keep him up to date if he and the local Conservatives can't manage this themselves.’
    • ‘It found itself subjected to harsh rain it was ill equipped for, dissolving the sandstone facades of it's buildings slowly, even as the people chose not to lift their eyes and notice it.’
    • ‘This question is rather abstract, but it serves to demonstrate how ill defined ‘harmful to minors’ may be.’
    • ‘Kiribati was ill prepared for democracy by the British colonial regime, which mainly used people from Tuvalu as administrators.’
    • ‘So, if this ill informed, ill educated, condemned criminal gets the happy ending of life eternal with God, may we not also have similar expectations?’
    • ‘I must be that inexplicably angry, obtuse, ill mannered, audacious, pompous blow-hard that writes insulting letters to The Peak!’
    badly, adversely, unsuccessfully, unfavourably
    inadequately, unsatisfactorily, insufficiently, imperfectly, deficiently, defectively, poorly, badly, negligently
    poorly, badly, imperfectly
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    1. 1.1Unfavorably or unpropitiously.
      ‘something which boded ill for unwary golfers’
      • ‘I just watched ten minutes of speculation on whether a long deliberation bodes well or ill for the defense.’
      unfavourably, adversely, badly, unhappily, inauspiciously
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  • 2Only with difficulty; hardly.

    ‘she could ill afford the cost of new curtains’
    • ‘Gee's Bend was a very poor community that could ill afford luxuries like store-bought blankets and bed coverings.’
    • ‘He stressed that some of the goods produced locally lacked quality and were produced at a comparatively higher cost making such goods ill equipped to compete on the regional market.’
    • ‘This loss of time could be ill afforded at a time when the technical preparations for Mike were at a critical stage.’
    • ‘Poor families can ill afford more than a few rupees.’
    • ‘Culpeper's deepest desire was to make herbal medicine available to everyone, especially the poor who could ill afford to visit a physician.’
    barely, scarcely, hardly, just, only just, just possibly, narrowly
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  • 1People who are ill.

    ‘a day center for the mentally ill’
    • ‘The coast became popular beginning in the mid-nineteenth century as a winter destination for the fashionable, the artistic, and the ill.’
    • ‘America needs to train less qualified, younger, male practitioners who will accept less pay and don't mind being be sent out to rural America to cure the ill.’
    • ‘Countries all over the world are grappling with how to end the lives of the ill.’
    • ‘Services for the mentally ill should be allowed to compete freely with other sectors for their share of the total health care budget.’
    • ‘Both domestic violence and suicide attempts are more common, and of the mentally ill who wind up in jails and prisons, there is a high percentage of drug abusers.’
    • ‘During the bloody war in Bosnia, various drug companies donated tons of their medicines to treat the war's wounded and the ill.’
    • ‘Apparently, the system is working pretty well, as even the ill can see that they are getting a good deal.’
    • ‘Therefore, society's views of mental illness are formed by those they see - the mentally ill who do not receive treatment.’
    unwell, sick, not well, not very well, ailing, poorly, sickly, peaky, afflicted, indisposed, infirm, liverish
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  • 2A problem or misfortune.

    ‘a lengthy work on the ills of society’
    • ‘After all, who in their right minds would imagine that theatre is responsible for the ills of society?’
    • ‘Like so many ills of today's society, the cult of bigness has American origin.’
    • ‘Instead of seeing violence as a social ill, it excites and entertains us.’
    • ‘And when Sha-King talks, he sounds as if he's reciting every imaginable ill in urban America.’
    • ‘Both of them believe that society's ills can be fixed by putting the right man at the top to make laws and crack down on the wrong people.’
    • ‘You don't hear people talking about any other part that the markets will take care of it, that free trade is the panacea for every ill.’
    • ‘One of the ills of our society in the recent past was the polarisation of black and white.’
    • ‘The 1960s and 70s counterculture gets blamed for every current social ill by conservatives.’
    • ‘Despite good intentions, psychiatrists can become complicit in shaping social ills.’
    • ‘A humming economy, after all, fixes most if not all other ills in a society.’
    • ‘As tempting as it is to demonise computer games for society's ills, the evidence does not suggest such a simple link.’
    • ‘The voters have to be sick of partisan wrangling and worried about unsolved national ills.’
    • ‘While this Amendment was not intended to redress every social ill, its legitimate purposes certainly extend to the protection of unborn persons.’
    • ‘Mr Osborne repeats the myth that society's ills can be blamed on refugees.’
    • ‘A certain social ill might suddenly get a burst of national publicity because editors at The New York Times decided to make it a page-one news feature.’
    • ‘So Bren naturally blames Ian for any ill that may happen.’
    • ‘It has become an accepted part of our daily lives, like so many of the ills that plague our society.’
    • ‘Once we have that hope, it can be used to work against the ills in society, the negativity.’
    • ‘Of all the social ills and problems plaguing Bihar, sati was never on the list.’
    • ‘Injunctions against discrimination require that efficacious treatment for a human ill must be made equally accessible to everyone.’
    problems, troubles, difficulties, misfortunes, strains, trials, tribulations, trials and tribulations, worries, anxieties, concerns
    illnesses, ill health, poor health
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    1. 2.1Evil; harm.
      ‘how could I wish him ill?’
      • ‘Yes, you have to - there's a kind of linguistic hygiene, like ethnic cleansing in a way, which works for ill and also for good.’
      • ‘I wish her no ill at this stage in the competition.’
      • ‘I want to state that I do not wish ill upon any person, and this is in fact another part of the problem.’
      • ‘It can control the country's borders, and it can keep out or throw out those who wish our nation ill.’
      • ‘It is not in Justin Wilson's nature to wish ill of a rival - he is far too nice for that.’
      • ‘I wished the senator no ill but if he didn't want people to hold this against him, he should at some point have declared that it was wrong.’
      • ‘In short, I wish Mr Akam no ill, but hope this acts as a piece of constructive criticism.’
      • ‘I don't wish the bloke any ill but me and a few others wouldn't be among those in the gallery clapping our hands.’
      • ‘For ill or for good, the applications are endless!’
      • ‘Emilia's eagerness to divulge her husband's guilt thus illustrates her revenge, her returning ill upon the man who has abused her.’
      • ‘How do you tell such a person that you mean him no ill?’
      • ‘So, I wish them no ill, but I think they should be stripped of their titles and that their immense wealth could be put to better use for the good of everyone.’
      • ‘Tris, you made a few good points about Gourmet Station Blog, which I, for good or ill named as this week's winner of ‘The Beyond Lame Award’.’
      • ‘If that's for good or ill can't be judged, because the only vestiges we get of that more satirical version are a few extended scenes among the extras.’
      • ‘It is important to remember, however, that not all hatred is wishing another ill for its own sake.’
      • ‘We didn't wish the fox ill, but his determination to steal our hens didn't make him a friend of the family either.’
      • ‘I don't want to speak for anyone else, but people here generally are Democrats and wish political ill on the Republicans.’
      • ‘Even though she married the wrong guy I wish her no ill at all.’
      • ‘I wish Karen no ill, of course, and intend no mockery.’
      • ‘Those wishing further ill may hope that a Sox loss will preserve the Fragile Equilibrium of Unhappiness that Boston fans know all too well.’
      harm, hurt, injury, damage, mischief, pain, trouble, unpleasantness, misfortune, grievance, suffering, distress, anguish, trauma, grief
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On the punctuation of ill in compound adjectives, see well, as the same rules apply


  • ill at ease

    • Uncomfortable or embarrassed.

      • ‘Russians, for historical reasons, can be acutely ill at ease with the idea of expounding uncomfortable truths in a formal setting.’
      • ‘Why did he seem so ill at ease, so uncomfortable with the role he had to play?’
      • ‘Any white person expressing such ideas is obviously a buttoned up racist, ill at ease with the realities of multicultural Britain and its vibrant black youth culture.’
      • ‘The world depicted is a fascinating one, and we gaze upon it with rapt attention, even as the disquieting mood of the film keeps us ill at ease.’
      • ‘It made him uncomfortable and ill at ease, and he felt she was trying to keep him there in the pilothouse.’
      • ‘I just shifted in my seat, feeling very nervous, and ill at ease.’
      • ‘She sits isolated, straining at the boundaries of the picture, thoroughly ill at ease with her space.’
      • ‘She had become very uncomfortable and ill at ease when visiting her parents and suffered chronic tension.’
      • ‘She feels awkward, ill at ease, and even intruded upon.’
      • ‘Worse than that, everybody felt ill at ease and unsure how to behave in front of the former enemy.’
      awkward, uneasy, uncomfortable, self-conscious, out of place, unnatural, inhibited, gauche, strained
      embarrassed, shy, bashful, blushing, retiring, shrinking
      unsure, uncertain, unsettled, hesitant, faltering
      restless, restive, fidgety, unrelaxed, disquieted, disturbed, discomfited, troubled, worried, anxious, on edge, edgy, nervous, tense, on tenterhooks
      apprehensive, distrustful
      fazed, discombobulated, twitchy, on pins and needles, jittery
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  • speak (or think) ill of

    • Say (or think) something critical about.

      • ‘People from the pro-work culture would think ill of themselves for being ‘lazy’ so why should they not think ill of others who are ‘lazy’?’
      • ‘He was a handsome man, too handsome to be thought ill of by anyone, his aloof attitude did only add attractions to his charm.’
      • ‘With all the scandals and bad publicity, it's no wonder that right thinking Americans tend to think ill of the beauty contest scene; but I realized in just one afternoon that pageants should be experienced before they are criticized.’
      • ‘Inherited distrust or whatnot of Christianity does not mean that Jews dislike Christians, or think ill of them, or even want them to stop practicing Christianity.’
      • ‘Unless one thinks ill of the woman he married, one can hardly regard this as ‘earned.’’
      • ‘Brown is unusual in contemporary poetry for her willingness to be thought ill of.’
      • ‘He ‘feels bad’ about the torture, and he ‘feels bad’ that people think ill of America, and somehow that all evens things out.’
      • ‘Theirs is only a slightly more sophisticated reading than many other millennialists, who might know Le Monde from the Golden Calf but would think ill of both for speaking French.’
      • ‘Every one who was looking my way had to be thinking ill of me.’
      • ‘Nobody thinks ill of the many long-distance runners who simply did not have the bottle to finish in Athens.’
      denigrate, disparage, cast aspersions on, criticize, be critical of, speak badly of, speak of with disfavour, be unkind about, be malicious about, be spiteful towards, blacken the name of, blacken the character of, besmirch, run down, insult, abuse, attack, slight, revile, malign, vilify
      bad-mouth, slate, bitch about, do a hatchet job on, pull to pieces, sling mud at, throw mud at, drag through the mud, drag someone's name through the mud
      rubbish, slag off, have a go at, have a pop at
      asperse, derogate, vilipend, vituperate
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Middle English (in the senses wicked malevolent harmful and difficult): from Old Norse illr evil, difficult of unknown origin.