mid-13c., "allow to occur or continue, permit, tolerate, fail to prevent or suppress," also "to be made to undergo, endure, be subjected to" (pain, death, punishment, judgment, grief), from Anglo-French suffrir, Old French sofrir "bear, endure, resist; permit, tolerate, allow" (Modern French souffrir), from Vulgar Latin *sufferire, variant of Latin sufferre "to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under," from sub "up, under" (see sub-) + ferre "to carry, bear," from PIE root *bher- (1) "to carry," also "to bear children."
Replaced Old English þolian, þrowian. Meaning "submit meekly to" is from early 14c. Meaning "undergo, be subject to, be affected by, experience; be acted on by an agent" is from late 14c. Related: Suffered; sufferer; suffering. Suffering ______! as an exclamation is attested from 1859.