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.

Example Sentences

there's nothing so aggravating as a blaring car alarm that no one is paying any attention to
Recent Examples on the Web Far more aggravating was the failure of Texas’ Spence (28-0, 22 KOs) and Nebraska’s Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs) to strike a deal for the bout to determine supremacy in the glamour 147-pound division. Lance Pugmire, USA TODAY, 28 Oct. 2022 The state has pointed to seven such aggravating factors — including that the killings were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, as well as cold, calculated and premeditated — lead prosecutor Michael Satz said during the trial. Aditi Sangal, CNN, 13 Oct. 2022 That was a real difficult loss, that was an aggravating loss. Lamond Pope, Chicago Tribune, 12 Aug. 2022 In determining discipline, both aggravating and mitigating factors may be considered. cleveland, 16 June 2022 In terms of delays, Newark was also one of the top two most aggravating airports to fly out of, delivering people to their destination late nearly 30 percent of the time. New York Times, 1 July 2022 This six-part, true-crime series is equal parts fascinating and aggravating. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 June 2022 For the health care providers in the ICU at Cedars-Sinai, there was nothing more aggravating than those who claimed the virus was not serious. Byalex Stone, ABC News, 13 May 2022 There was the four-game winning streak in January, starting with an upset in Las Vegas that followed an aggravating collapse on the road against the lowly Arizona Coyotes. Phil Thompson,, 15 Mar. 2022 See More

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

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 4 Dec. 2022.

More from Merriam-Webster on aggravating

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