to cause pain, uneasiness, or trouble to.
to be unwell; feel pain; be ill:
he’s been ailing for some time.
contemporary examples

if america is fortunate, the economy will continue to improve, while the 2016 campaign will focus on what ails the country.
stock market america and the rest of us lloyd green july 9, 2014

locavorism, far from healing what ails us, is a recipe for widespread human misery and ecological disaster.
why locavorism doesn’t make us happier, healthier, or safer pierre desrochers, hiroko shimizu june 30, 2012

from the novel cure: from abandonment to zestlessness: 751 books to cure what ails you by ella berthoud and susan elderkin.
how to cure your anxiety? read henry james’s ‘the portrait of a lady,’ of course. ella berthoud, susan elderkind september 25, 2013

in the long run, taking the pain now might just be the best medicine for the rot of hyper-partisanship that ails our body politic.
the suicidal shutdown: hyper-partisan fever rules the government john avlon september 28, 2013

the dead ex-mayor comes as close as any character to naming what ails the little palm-shrouded town.
jeffrey eugenides hails donald antrim’s ‘elect mr. robinson for a better world’ jeffrey eugenides june 1, 2012

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 b-tterby—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.
lippincott’s magazine, december, 1885 various

i never knew you so sharp on a neighbour, honor, before:—what ails ye?
tales and novels, volume 8 (of 10) maria edgeworth

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

(transitive) to trouble; afflict
(intransitive) to feel unwell

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]

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