In an answer I wrote:

  • sources of insomnia: improper food, some (yet) undetected illness / disease / affection, accumulated stress, some strong expectations about the (near) future, love, ...

and in exchange I received a comment:

"sources of insomnia: [..] affection" Hehe I think you meant affliction

Of course, I used "affection" with the meaning of "state of illness".

A search reveals that "affection" might be archaic, but not all sources share this information / belief.

On the other hand, I am not very familiar with "affliction", so I am hesitant to use it.

So my question (to native speakers) is: which one of them fits better? Which one is more common in every-day language? Of course, they might also be totally interchangeable, but I do not know.

  • 3
    There is also the word "infection", which has a meaning very similar to illness or disease.
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 4:00
  • 2
    A modern interpretation of the use of "affection" in this context is being woken up in the middle of the night for lovemaking. I suspect that's why there's the "Hehe" in the comment. Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 21:16
  • 1
    affection here would be taken to mean showing or being shown positive feelings by another person. The word does not collocate with the others. affection is positive. And the word affliction I will leave you to look up. It also does not work here.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 0:22
  • Affliction works fine, it's just somewhat redundant with the other two. Affection, however "archaic", does work, in particular because it covers the "mental health" part of the spectrum better than the other two ("depressive affect" is a medical term that might be relevant here). Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 3:47

4 Answers 4


"Affection" meaning a state of illness is archaic. That means that it should not be used in that sense in standard current English (though you might need to know it if you are reading old books). The principal modern meaning of "affection" is "a feeling of fondness" (definitions from google). Your sentence seems to say "Insomnia can be caused by having fondness for people" which is not what you meant.

On the other hand the main meaning of "affliction" is "a cause of pain or harm", which fits your sentence much better.

  • 3
    I agree, it's an extremely uncommon usage of the word in modern English, and OP should definitely stick with "affliction."
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 1:00
  • Yes, archaic meanings are not relevant here.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 0:23
  • It seems to be fairly common in medical jargon, but that doesn't make it suitable for the given context.
    – David K
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 7:07
  • You'll notice "love" listed in the given text. There's a reason it's called "affection" ;) [hint: "love-sick"] Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 3:50

I am a native speaker and this is my first exposure to the "malady" sense of the word "affection." I see that Merriam-Webster does not mark it as archaic, but I can assure you that most native English speakers will be puzzled by that meaning.

The example from Merriam-Webster, "a pulmonary affection", has a technical sound. Possibly it is still current medical jargon. But that meaning is not common in everyday use. Most people only use the word to mean a warm feeling towards someone.


Whenever I have seen "affection" used for an illness or malady, it has always been in the form "a [body part] affection", and never just "an affection".

In other words, "something that affects this body part" - for example, "a pulmonary affection" is something that affects the lungs. From context, this is implicitly negative - an illness or malady, having an undesired effect - but, grammatically, it doesn't have to be. An asthma inhaler is thus "a pulmonary affection", having the effect of making it easier to breathe. A pair of glasses is "an ocular affection", having the effect of making your eyes see better. (Unless you don't need glasses, wearing them purely for fashion purposes - in which case, its an affectation: an unnatural form of behaviour meant especially to impress others)

This then means "the insomnia was caused by an affection" synonymises with "the insomnia was caused by something having an effect", or "the insomnia was caused by a cause". Which, being unnecessarily redundant, is circular reasoning that begs the question.

And, if you were going to include it in your list, you would want to use "affect" instead of "affection" anyway - a noun of the same type as "illness" and "disease" - but "influence" would be a better / more natural choice.

(Use of "affect" as a noun is very rare outside of specialised fields such as psychology)


I am not a native speaker, but wouldn't you be reading the meaning of "affection" differently?

According to Merriam


3 a (1) : a bodily condition (2) : disease, malady

If you have some disease, or if you are "affected" by some illness (=affection), you could have insomnia.

  • I feel that you have a (good) point about it, but honestly, I understand nothing of what you want to say. Please edit the answer to be more explicit.
    – virolino
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 12:49
  • @virolino I can't improve anymore:)
    – user17814
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 12:54

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