aggravate

verb

ag·​gra·​vate ˈa-grə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio)
aggravated; aggravating; aggravates

transitive verb

1
: to make (something) worse, more serious, or more severe : to intensify (something) unpleasantly
His back injury was aggravated by too much exercise.
They're afraid that we might aggravate an already bad situation.
2
a
: to make (someone) angry or irritated especially by bothering again and again
The neighbors were aggravated by the noise from the construction.
I'm so silly with my daughter, I think it aggravates her at this point.Amy Adams
b
: to produce inflammation in (a part of the body) : irritate
… contact wearers may be especially vulnerable to pollen or other irritants that can aggravate the eyes …Jessica Rendall
3
obsolete
a
: burden
b
Common Uses of Aggravate, Aggravation, and Aggravating: Usage Guide

Although aggravate has been used to refer to rousing someone to anger since the 17th century, it has been the object of disapproval only since about 1870. It is used in expository prose

when his silly conceit … about his not-very-good early work has begun to aggravate us William Styron

but seems to be more common in speech and casual writing.

a good profession for him, because bus drivers get aggravated Jackie Gleason, interview, 1986
& now this letter comes to aggravate me a thousand times worse Mark Twain, letter, 1864

The "make worse" meaning is far more common in published prose than the "rouse to anger" meaning. Such is not the case, however, with aggravation and aggravating. Aggravation is used in the "irritation, provocation" sense somewhat more than in its earlier senses; aggravating has practically no use other than to express annoyance.

Examples of aggravate in a Sentence

She aggravated an old knee injury. They're afraid that we might aggravate an already bad situation. A headache can be aggravated by too much exercise. The symptoms were aggravated by drinking alcohol. All of these delays really aggravate me. Our neighbors were aggravated by all the noise.
Recent Examples on the Web Another environmental factor that can aggravate asthma and other cardiovascular diseases are allergens – think pollen, dust, fungal spores, etc. Scrub Hub:Can indoor air quality hurt my health more than the outdoor air? Sarah Bowman, The Indianapolis Star, 13 May 2024 My back has never really been the same since, and the constant travel that comes with being on the road always seems to aggravate it. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 13 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for aggravate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aggravate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

borrowed from Latin aggravātus, past participle of aggravāre "to weigh down, burden, oppress, make worse," from ad- ad- + gravāre "to make heavy, weigh down," verbal derivative of gravis "heavy" — more at grieve

First Known Use

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

Time Traveler
The first known use of aggravate was in 1530

Dictionary Entries Near aggravate

Cite this Entry

“Aggravate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aggravate. Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

aggravate

verb
ag·​gra·​vate ˈag-rə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio)
aggravated; aggravating
1
: to make more serious or severe
aggravate an injury
2
: to make angry by bothering again and again
Etymology

from Latin aggravare "to make heavier," from ad- "to" and gravare "to burden," from gravis "heavy" — related to grave entry 3, gravity, grieve

Medical Definition

aggravate

transitive verb
ag·​gra·​vate ˈag-rə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio)
aggravated; aggravating
1
: to make worse, more serious, or more severe
movement may aggravate the pain
2
: to produce inflammation in : irritate
surgery aggravated the nerve

Legal Definition

aggravate

transitive verb
ag·​gra·​vate ˈa-grə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio)
aggravated; aggravating
: to make more serious, more severe, or worse
maliciousness aggravated the offense
aggravating factors
compare mitigate
aggravation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on aggravate

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