ag·​i·​tate ˈa-jə-ˌtāt How to pronounce agitate (audio)
agitated; agitating

transitive verb

: to excite and often trouble the mind or feelings of : disturb
My presence did not appear to agitate or irritate him as before, and he accepted my services quietly …Charlotte Brontë
: to discuss excitedly and earnestly
: to stir up public discussion of
… trying to agitate the old question of the embezzlement of the remains of the Confederate Treasury.Robert Penn Warren
obsolete : to give motion to
: to move with an irregular, rapid, or violent action
The storm agitated the sea.

intransitive verb

: to attempt to arouse public feeling
agitated for better schools
Choose the Right Synonym for agitate

shake, agitate, rock, convulse mean to move up and down or to and fro with some violence.

shake often carries a further implication of a particular purpose.

shake well before using

agitate suggests a violent and prolonged tossing or stirring.

an ocean agitated by storms

rock suggests a swinging or swaying motion resulting from violent impact or upheaval.

the whole city was rocked by the explosion

convulse suggests a violent pulling or wrenching as of a body in a paroxysm.

spectators were convulsed with laughter

discompose, disquiet, disturb, perturb, agitate, upset, fluster mean to destroy capacity for collected thought or decisive action.

discompose implies some degree of loss of self-control or self-confidence especially through emotional stress.

discomposed by the loss of his beloved wife

disquiet suggests loss of sense of security or peace of mind.

the disquieting news of factories closing

disturb implies interference with one's mental processes caused by worry, perplexity, or interruption.

the discrepancy in accounts disturbed me

perturb implies deep disturbance of mind and emotions.

perturbed by her husband's strange behavior

agitate suggests obvious external signs of nervous or emotional excitement.

in his agitated state we could see he was unable to work

upset implies the disturbance of normal or habitual functioning by disappointment, distress, or grief.

the family's constant bickering upsets the youngest child

fluster suggests bewildered agitation.

his declaration of love completely flustered her

Examples of agitate in a Sentence

If I talk about the problem with him it just agitates him even more. Some members of the union have been agitating for a strike. A few local residents have been agitating against a military presence. The mixture is heated and then agitated.
Recent Examples on the Web In Hollywood, the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on overlapping strikes, both agitating for guardrails and rules about the use of AI in their fields. Kate Knibbs, WIRED, 22 Nov. 2023 Washington’s own sporadic strikes are similarly about posturing, carried out to appease domestic audiences agitating for a response to the Iranian attacks. Maria Fantappie and Vali Nasr, Foreign Affairs, 20 Nov. 2023 In Georgia, Republican legislators have been agitating for a special session to impeach Fani Willis, the Democratic prosecutor who brought a wide-ranging indictment against former President Donald Trump and others who sought to overturn the 2020 election results. Reid J. Epstein,, 6 Sep. 2023 By the 1980s, powerful leaders including then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein began agitating for the Embarcadero Freeway’s removal. Benjamin Schneider, Los Angeles Times, 13 Nov. 2023 And Republicans, who have been agitating for months for strict new border measures, are demanding a host of policy changes including an overhaul of asylum laws. Karoun Demirjian, New York Times, 8 Nov. 2023 Wind projects in several other Iowa counties without current restrictions are also being hotly contested as local groups agitate their governing bodies to adopt policies that would restrict or eliminate wind farms. Molly Taft, The New Republic, 28 Sep. 2023 Lillard had been nakedly agitating for a trade to the Miami Heat, but his second-tier agent wasn’t good enough at threatening people to make Portland think paying Tyler Herro was a good idea. Corbin Smith, Rolling Stone, 24 Oct. 2023 On the most basic level, Black people are generally pictured as doing anything but relaxing—as being attacked, or agitating, or performing feats of athleticism or entertainment. Emily Lordi, The New Yorker, 18 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English agitat "set in motion," borrowed from Latin agitātus, past participle of agitāre "to set in motion, drive before one, arouse, disturb, deal with, turn over in the mind," frequentative of agere "to drive, be in motion, do, perform" — more at agent

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of agitate was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near agitate

Cite this Entry

“Agitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ag·​i·​tate ˈaj-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce agitate (audio)
agitated; agitating
: to move with an irregular, rapid, or violent action
water agitated by wind
: to stir up : excite, disturb
agitated by bad news
: to try to stir up public feeling
agitate for equal rights
agitation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on agitate

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