ag·​gra·​vat·​ing ˈa-grə-ˌvā-tiŋ How to pronounce aggravating (audio)
: arousing displeasure, impatience, or anger
an aggravating habit
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 aggravating in a Sentence

there's nothing so aggravating as a blaring car alarm that no one is paying any attention to
Recent Examples on the Web In such cases, the jury would then hear from the two sides about any aggravating and mitigating circumstances, before deciding whether a death sentence is appropriate. Jonathan Franklin, NPR, 30 May 2024 The problem here is that the Republican list is a catalog of aggravating grievances, not party platform points. Reader Commentary, Baltimore Sun, 13 Apr. 2024 The Attorney's Office said the jury decided Barraza-Salinas' fate based on the aggravating circumstances of the murder and his attempt to cause serious physical injury. Rey Covarrubias Jr., The Arizona Republic, 15 May 2024 Russia is seeking to exploit America’s divisive debate over Israel’s offensive in Gaza through overt and covert propaganda, with the aim of aggravating political tensions in the U.S. and tarnishing Washington’s global image, according to two sources familiar with U.S. intelligence on the matter. Dan De Luce, NBC News, 30 Apr. 2024 A lot of people mess up, which can be very aggravating. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, 29 Jan. 2024 Under current state law, a jury must unanimously find that prosecutors proved at least one aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. Grethel Aguila, Miami Herald, 22 Feb. 2024 Her willingness to push boundaries can be admirable and aggravating, but it’s always aimed at providing top-quality care to her patients. Angel Saunders, Peoplemag, 10 Feb. 2024 If anything, fewer people may squash an ant with their shoe after knowing that these often aggravating insects may someday save our lives. Elizabeth Rayne, Ars Technica, 15 Jan. 2024

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

Word History


from present participle of aggravate

First Known Use

1673, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of aggravating was in 1673

Dictionary Entries Near aggravating

Cite this Entry

“Aggravating.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

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