verb ag·gra·vate \ˈa-grə-ˌvāt\

Definition of aggravate



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 obsolete a :  to make heavy :  burden b :  increase

  3. 2 :  to make worse, more serious, or more severe :  intensify unpleasantly <problems have been aggravated by neglect>

  4. 3 a :  to rouse to displeasure or anger by usually persistent and often petty goading b :  to produce inflammation in

Usage Discussion of aggravate

Although aggravate has been used in sense 3a 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)>. Sense 2 is far more common than sense 3a in published prose. Such is not the case, however, with aggravation and aggravating. Aggravation is used in sense 3 somewhat more than in its earlier senses; aggravating has practically no use other than to express annoyance.

Examples of aggravate in a sentence

  1. She aggravated an old knee injury.

  2. They're afraid that we might aggravate an already bad situation.

  3. A headache can be aggravated by too much exercise.

  4. The symptoms were aggravated by drinking alcohol.

  5. All of these delays really aggravate me.

  6. Our neighbors were aggravated by all the noise.

Did You Know?

Since the grav- root means basically "weighty or serious", the original meaning of aggravate was "to make more serious". A bad relationship with your parents can be aggravated by marrying someone who nobody likes, for example, or a touchy trade relationship between two countries can be aggravated by their inability to agree on climate-change issues. Depression can be aggravated by insomnia--and insomnia can be aggravated by depression. But when most people use aggravate today, they employ its "annoy" sense, as in "What really aggravates my dad is having to listen to that TV all day long".

Origin and Etymology of aggravate

Latin aggravatus, past participle of aggravare to make heavier, from ad- + gravare to burden, from gravis heavy — more at grieve

First Known Use: 1530

AGGRAVATE Defined for English Language Learners


verb ag·gra·vate \ˈa-grə-ˌvāt\

Definition of aggravate for English Language Learners

  • : to make (an injury, problem, etc.) more serious or severe

  • : to make (someone) angry : to annoy or bother (someone)

AGGRAVATE Defined for Kids


verb ag·gra·vate \ˈa-grə-ˌvāt\

Definition of aggravate for Students



  1. 1 :  to make worse or more serious <aggravate an injury> <Don't aggravate an already bad situation.>

  2. 2 :  to make angry usually by bothering again and again <All of these delays really aggravate me.>

Word Root of aggravate

The Latin word gravis, meaning “heavy” or “serious,” gives us the root grav. Words from the Latin gravis have something to do with heaviness or seriousness. Something grave, or important, such as a situation, requires serious thought and consideration. To aggravate is to make a situation more serious. Gravity is a force that pulls everything towards the ground making it feel heavy.

Medical Dictionary


transitive verb ag·gra·vate \ˈag-rə-ˌvāt\

Medical Definition of aggravate




  1. 1:  to make worse, more serious, or more severe <movement may aggravate the pain>

  2. 2:  to produce inflammation in :  irritate <surgery aggravated the nerve>

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ag·gra·vate \ˈa-grə-ˌvāt\

Legal Definition of aggravate



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


\ˌa-grə-ˈvā-shən\ play noun

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up aggravate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


very important or noticeable

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