Difference Between Ill and Sick

Both the words Ill and Sick have the same meaning. When a person is not feeling well or is in an undesirable health condition, such a person is known to be sick or Ill.


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Both words are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings. Initially, ill and sick tend to be associated, providing a similar message to the reader.

Someone who is not well. They are similar in concept but have evident variations in their use.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ill is a general state of being unwell or suffering from a disease or medical condition.
  2. Sick specifically refers to experiencing nausea, vomiting, or other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress.
  3. Ill is a broader term encompassing various illnesses, while sick is more specific and typically refers to a temporary condition.

Ill vs Sick

“Ill” is generally used to refer to a more serious, long-term condition, such as a chronic illness or a disease, suggesting a more severe and long-lasting condition. “Sick” refers to a more temporary condition, such as a cold or flu, and implies a more temporary and less serious illness.

Ill vs Sick

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Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonIllSick
Refers toThe term ‘ill’ refers to serious diseases such as a stroke.‘sick’ refers to something not so severe as feeling nauseous.
LanguageThe word ‘ill’ is used as a formal term. The word ‘sick’ is more of an informal term.
Duration of Disease and AilmentsLong term durationShort term duration
TypeIt includes more severe and major conditions.It includes more minor conditions.
Largely used for referring toHumans tend to fall ‘ill’.Only animals only tend to be sick. For example, a sick cow and other non-human things such as a sick joke, a sick land, a sick economy, etc.
OriginThe word ‘ill’ originated from the Old Norse term ‘illr’.The word ‘sick’ originated from the English term ‘soec’.

What is Ill?

An individual is said to be ill if he is feeling unwell, either mentally or physically. Ill is a word which sounds more formal than sick and is also used in the written form of English.

We prefer the term ill instead of sick for writing an application.

While in British English, the word Ill is significantly used to refer to a person’s physical medical condition. Ailments and diseases requiring medical attention regardless of duration fulfil the criteria of being referred to as an illness.

An individual suffering from a medical condition is a person who is ill irrespective of whether he/she has heart problems or just the flu.


What is Sick?

An individual suffering from a disease is known as a sick person. When a person feels the urge to vomit, such a person is known to be sick.

A sick mind is a term used to describe a person who is psychologically or emotionally troubled. Sometimes when a person says that he’s sick of parties, he means to say that he’s bored and annoyed while attending parties and doesn’t want to visit any more parties.

One might even be sick of another person.

Sick and tired is yet another idiom that describes a person who is tired and fed up with something or a situation.

In general, however, sick is used when a person has some disease, illness, or vomiting. It is usual for those suffering from nausea to be considered sick.


Main Differences Between Ill and Sick

  1. The word Ill is usually related to a disease or something serious, whereas the word Sick, on the other hand, is often used to refer to mild ailments such as cold, cough, fever, sore throat, etc.
  2. The word Ill is used formally, whereas Sick is used informally.
  3. Ill refers to diseases and ailments that last longer, whereas Sick refers to diseases and ailments that last for a short period.
  4. Americans more casually use the word Sick whereas English people formally use the word Ill.
  5. Observe the word Sick with several nouns such as a sick dog, a sick leave or homesick. On the other hand, using the word Il with nouns such as ill leave or ill sick will sound absurd and meaningless.
  6. The term Ill in words such as mentally ill or ill repute sounds appropriate due to their formal manner and adverse effects. On the other hand, If one says mentally sick or sick repute, such words may not have the same formal touch or meaning.
  7. When an individual is said to be sick of someone, he/she wants to say that they are annoyed or irritated by that person. On the other hand, saying a person is ill of someone does not make any sense.
Difference Between Ill and Sick
  1. https://search.proquest.com/openview/75702d95c0ce2ea847f746c195b39959/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=37022
  2. http://grad.litu.tu.ac.th/assets/public/kcfinder/upload_grad_web/public/MA-ELT_The8th%20LITU%20Graduate%20Conference%202019.pdf#page=43
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