I. noun 1. a 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.
2. [in sing.] — an emotion experienced with painful or bittersweet intensity • an ache in her heart.
II. verb — [no obj.] 1. suffer from a continuous dull pain • my legs ached from the previous day’s exercise
• I’m aching all over.
2. feel intense sadness or compassion • she sat still and silent, her heart aching
• she looked so tired that my heart ached for her.
3. feel an intense desire for • she ached for his touch
• [with infinitive]
he was aching to get his hands on the ball.
– origin 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’.