Ill at Ease

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Meaning of Idiom 'Ill at Ease'

To be ill at ease means to be uneasy, uncomfortable, feel nervous or awkward. 1,2


"How are you feeling about the new promotion?" asked Betty. "I feel a bit ill at ease but I'm excited," said Felicia.

"I always feel ill at ease in large groups of people."


Used since around 1300 as the opposite of at ease (at one's ease): comfortable, relaxed, not embarrassed or nervous, the word ill in "ill at ease" is used in its adverbial sense to mean poorly, badly, imperfectly, etc. 2

1. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill's American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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