Etymology
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mischance (n.)

"mishap, ill-luck, disaster," c. 1300, from Old French mescheance "misfortune, mishap, accident; wickedness, malice," from Vulgar Latin *minuscadentiam; see mis- (2) + chance (n.). Now usually "bad luck;" formerly much stronger: "calamity, disaster, affliction."

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desolate (v.)

late 14c., "render (a region or place) lonely by depopulation or devastation; lay waste, ruin," from desolate (adj.) or Latin desolatus. Meaning "overwhelm with grief, make sorry or weary by affliction" is from 1520s. Related: Desolated; desolating.

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plague (n.)

late 14c., plage, "affliction, calamity, evil, scourge, severe trouble or vexation;" early 15c., "malignant disease," from Old French plage (14c., Modern French plaie), from Late Latin plaga "affliction; slaughter, destruction," used in Vulgate for "pestilence," from Latin plaga "stroke, wound," probably from root of plangere "to strike, lament (by beating the breast)," from or cognate with Greek (Doric) plaga "blow" (from PIE root *plak- (2) "to strike").

Sometimes in Middle English also "a strike, a blow" (late 14c.). The Latin word also is the source of Old Irish plag (genitive plaige) "plague, pestilence," German Plage, Dutch plaage. Meaning "epidemic that causes many deaths" is from 1540s; specifically in reference to bubonic plague from c. 1600. Modern spelling follows French, which had plague from 15c. Weakened sense of "anything annoying" is from c. 1600.

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distress (n.)

late 13c., "circumstance that causes anxiety or hardship," from Old French destresse (Modern French détresse), from Vulgar Latin *districtia "restraint, affliction, narrowness, distress," from Latin districtus, past participle of distringere "draw apart, hinder," also, in Medieval Latin "compel, coerce," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + stringere "draw tight, press together" (see strain (v.)). Meaning "anguish; grief; pain or suffering of the body or mind" is from c. 1300.

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rancor (n.)

c. 1200, rancour, "a nourished envy; bitterness, hatred, malice," from Old French rancor "bitterness, resentment; grief, affliction," from Late Latin rancorem (nominative rancor) "rancidness, a stinking smell" (Palladius); "grudge, bitterness" (Hieronymus and in Late Latin), from Latin rancere "to stink," a word of unknown etymology (compare rancid). Sometimes in 15c. medical works the word is used in English in its literal Latin sense.

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throe (n.)
c. 1200, throwe "pain, pang of childbirth, agony of death," of uncertain origin, possibly from Old English þrawan "twist, turn, writhe" (see throw (v.)), or altered from Old English þrea (genitive þrawe) "affliction, pang, evil; threat, persecution" (related to þrowian "to suffer"), from Proto-Germanic *thrawo (source also of Middle High German dro "threat," German drohen "to threaten"). Modern spelling first recorded 1610s. Related: Throes.
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desolation (n.)

late 14c., desolacioun, "sorrow, grief, personal affliction;" c. 1400, "action of laying waste, destruction or expulsion of inhabitants;" from Old French desolacion (12c.) "desolation, devastation, hopelessness, despair" and directly from Church Latin desolationem (nominative desolatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of desolare "leave alone, desert," from de- "completely" (see de-) + solare "make lonely," from solus "alone" (see sole (adj.)).

Meaning "condition of being ruined or wasted, destruction" is from early 15c. Sense of "a desolated place, a devastated or lifeless region" is from 1610s.

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cramp (n.1)

"involuntary and painful muscle contraction," late 14c., from Old French crampe (13c.), from a Frankish or other Germanic word (compare Old High German krapmhe "cramp, spasm," related to kramph "bent, crooked"), from Proto-Germanic *kramp-, forming many words for "bent, crooked," including, via French, crampon.

Writer's cramp is first attested 1842 as the name of a physical affliction of the hand, in discussions of translations of German medical papers (Stromeyer); also known as scrivener's palsy.

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ail (v.)

c. 1300, from Old English eglan "to trouble, plague, afflict," from Proto-Germanic *azljaz (source also of 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- (1) "to be depressed, be afraid." Related: Ailed; ailing; ails. From late Old English also of mental states and moods.

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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despondence (n.)

"despondent condition, a sinking or dejection of spirit from loss of hope or courage in affliction or difficulty," 1670s, from Latin despondentem (nominative despondens), present participle of despondere "to give up, lose, lose heart, resign," also "to promise in marriage" (especially in phrase animam despondere, literally "give up one's soul"), etymologically "to promise to give something away," from de "away" (see de-) + spondere "to promise" (see sponsor (n.)).

Despondency is a loss of hope sufficient to produce a loss of courage and a disposition to relax or relinquish effort, the despondent person tending to sink into spiritless inaction. Despair means a total loss of hope; despondency does not. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
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