Definition of ache in English:

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Pronunciation: /eɪk/


1A continuous or prolonged dull pain in a part of one’s body: the ache in her head worsened a handful of salt in the bath water is good for aches and pains [mass noun]: he had stomach ache
More example sentences
  • She got out of bed, her body protesting with aches and stiffness.
  • He tried to sit up but the aches in his body made him lie back flat on the bed.
  • 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.
pain, dull pain, pang, twinge, throb;
gnawing, stabbing, sting, stinging, spasm, muscular spasm, cramp, convulsion;
smarting, soreness, tenderness, irritation, discomfort
2 [in singular] An emotion experienced with painful or bittersweet intensity: an ache in her heart
More example sentences
  • But surprisingly to her, the painful ache in her heart did not come, nor did tears well up in her eyes.
  • 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.
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
informal yen


[no object]
1Suffer from a continuous dull pain: my legs ached from the previous day’s exercise I’m aching all over
More example sentences
  • By now I was bed-bound, unable to think straight, aching continually with what appeared to be a consistent low-grade flu.
  • His chest muscles ached and he continued to pant.
  • When you wake up, you're in pain, aching all over, your eyes are stinging from the light and you're hungry.
hurt, be sore, be painful, be in pain, throb, pound, twinge;
smart, gnaw, burn, tingle, sting, be uncomfortable, be tender, give someone trouble
informal play up, give someone gyp
painful, achy, sore, stiff, hurt, tender, uncomfortable, troublesome;
hurting, in pain, throbbing, pounding, twingeing;
smarting, gnawing, burning, tingling, stinging, agonizing, searing, feeling tender, feeling uncomfortable, giving someone trouble
informal killing, playing someone up, giving someone gyp
2Feel intense sadness or compassion: she sat still and silent, her heart aching she looked so tired that my heart ached for her
More example sentences
  • That had been less than a year ago, and Inger's tender heart ached for the child's obvious yearning for comfort.
  • He heart ached for his life and the sadness she felt was far deeper than the pain in her leg or arm.
  • Cameron's heart ached for this poor girl; she looked so hurt when she talked about it.
grieve, sorrow, be sorrowful, be sad, be distressed, be in distress, be miserable, mourn, be mournful, lament, agonize, anguish, be in anguish, suffer, bleed;
eat one's heart out, weep and wail
sorrowful, sad, mournful, miserable, upset, distressed, anguished, heavy with grief, grief-stricken, wretched, heavy;
grieving, sorrowing, mourning, lamenting, in distress, in anguish, suffering, bleeding
3Feel an intense desire for: she ached for his touch [with infinitive]: he was aching to get his hands on the ball
More example sentences
  • Although she ached with desire for him, Krystal was glad she would have time to plan the perfect romantic evening for them.
  • The familiar feelings of longing returned, and his heart ached for her.
  • How long her heart had ached for a hand to hold, for someone to call her own.
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;
crave, desire, covet
informal have a yen for, yen for, be dying for
archaic be athirst for, suspire for


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'.

  • The word ache is a good example of the way that English spelling and pronunciation have developed and in many cases have diverged from each other. The noun comes from Old English and used to be pronounced ‘aitch’ (like the letter H), whereas the verb was originally spelled ake and pronounced the way ache is today. Around 1700, people started pronouncing the noun like the verb. The spelling of the noun has survived, but the word is said in the way the verb (ake) used to be. The modern spelling is largely due to Dr Johnson, who mistakenly assumed that the word came from Greek akhos ‘pain’. Other pairs of words that have survived into modern English with k-for-the-verb and ch-for-the-noun spellings include speak and speech and break and breach.

Words that rhyme with ache

awake, bake, betake, Blake, brake, break, cake, crake, drake, fake, flake, forsake, hake, Jake, lake, make, mistake, opaque, partake, quake, rake, sake, shake, sheikh, slake, snake, splake, stake, steak, strake, take, undertake, wake, wideawake

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ache

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