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

Definition of aggravate

transitive verb

1 : to make worse, more serious, or more severe : to intensify unpleasantly problems have been aggravated by neglect
2a : to rouse to displeasure or anger by usually persistent and often petty goading were aggravated by the noise and traffic
b : to produce inflammation in
3 obsolete
a : to make heavy : burden
b : increase

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Ozone can aggravate a host of physical problems by triggering coughing, inflaming the airways and lungs, and bringing on asthma attacks. Quinlan Bentley, The Enquirer, 5 June 2022 Fraud is obviously an issue for advertisers that will only aggravate in the near future, growing more high-tech and less vulnerable. Boris Abaev, Forbes, 3 June 2022 Starting Tuesday, France could step up border checks on British goods entering France and ban British fishing boats from unloading their seafood at certain French ports, which could aggravate Britain’s supply chain crisis. Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2021 One significant culprit that continues to aggravate these feelings of loneliness is social media, said Brendel. Arielle Mitropoulos, ABC News, 28 May 2022 Her work, in some ways, resembles that of MSCHF, a creative collective in Brooklyn, whose trollish product releases seem designed to aggravate coveted brands like Nike and Hermès. New York Times, 24 May 2022 New lockdowns in China threaten to aggravate supply bottlenecks. Nick Timiraos, WSJ, 4 May 2022 If your vacation involves indulging in low-fiber foods, which can aggravate constipation, try consuming more fruits and vegetables or taking a daily fiber supplement to keep things moving. Washington Post, 5 May 2022 Insects face additional threats that could overlap or aggravate the impacts of temperature and landscape concerns, including adjustments to precipitation, pollution, use of pesticides and light pollution, among other factors. NBC News, 20 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'aggravate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of aggravate

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for aggravate

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

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The first known use of aggravate was in 1530

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Last Updated

25 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Aggravate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for aggravate


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

Kids Definition of aggravate

1 : to make worse or more serious aggravate an injury Don't aggravate an already bad situation.
2 : to make angry usually by bothering again and again All of these delays really aggravate me.


transitive verb
ag·​gra·​vate | \ ˈag-rə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \
aggravated; aggravating

Medical Definition of aggravate

1 : to make worse, more serious, or more severe movement may aggravate the pain
2 : to produce inflammation in : irritate surgery aggravated the nerve


transitive verb
ag·​gra·​vate | \ ˈa-grə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \
aggravated; aggravating

Legal Definition of aggravate

: to make more serious, more severe, or worse maliciousness aggravated the offense aggravating factors — compare mitigate

Other Words from aggravate

aggravation \ ˌa-​grə-​ˈvā-​shən How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on aggravate

Nglish: Translation of aggravate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of aggravate for Arabic Speakers


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