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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Affliction \Af*flic"tion\, n. [F. affliction, L. afflictio, fr. affligere.] 1. The cause of continued pain of body or mind, as sickness, losses, etc.; an instance of grievous distress; a pain or grief. [1913 Webster] To repay that money will be a biting affliction. --Shak. [1913 Webster] 2. The state of being afflicted; a state of pain, distress, or grief. [1913 Webster] Some virtues are seen only in affliction. --Addison. [1913 Webster] Syn: Calamity; sorrow; distress; grief; pain; adversity; misery; wretchedness; misfortune; trouble; hardship. Usage: Affliction, Sorrow, Grief, Distress. Affliction and sorrow are terms of wide and general application; grief and distress have reference to particular cases. Affliction is the stronger term. The suffering lies deeper in the soul, and usually arises from some powerful cause, such as the loss of what is most dear -- friends, health, etc. We do not speak of mere sickness or pain as "an affliction," though one who suffers from either is said to be afflicted; but deprivations of every kind, such as deafness, blindness, loss of limbs, etc., are called afflictions, showing that term applies particularly to prolonged sources of suffering. Sorrow and grief are much alike in meaning, but grief is the stronger term of the two, usually denoting poignant mental suffering for some definite cause, as, grief for the death of a dear friend; sorrow is more reflective, and is tinged with regret, as, the misconduct of a child is looked upon with sorrow. Grief is often violent and demonstrative; sorrow deep and brooding. Distress implies extreme suffering, either bodily or mental. In its higher stages, it denotes pain of a restless, agitating kind, and almost always supposes some struggle of mind or body. Affliction is allayed, grief subsides, sorrow is soothed, distress is mitigated. [1913 Webster]