verb ag·i·tate \ ˈa-jə-ˌtāt \
|Updated on: 24 Jun 2018

Definition of agitate

agitated; agitating
1 : 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
2 a : to discuss excitedly and earnestly
b : 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
3 a obsolete : to give motion to
b : to move with an irregular, rapid, or violent action
  • The storm agitated the sea.
: to attempt to arouse public feeling
  • agitated for better schools


play \ˌa-jə-ˈtā-shən\ noun


play \-shnəl, -shə-nᵊl\ adjective

Examples of agitate in a Sentence

  1. If I talk about the problem with him it just agitates him even more.

  2. Some members of the union have been agitating for a strike.

  3. A few local residents have been agitating against a military presence.

  4. The mixture is heated and then agitated.

Recent Examples of agitate from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of agitate

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

AGITATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of agitate for English Language Learners

  • : to disturb, excite, or anger (someone)

  • : to try to get people to support or oppose something

  • : to move or stir up (a liquid)

AGITATE Defined for Kids


verb ag·i·tate \ ˈa-jə-ˌtāt \

Definition of agitate for Students

agitated; agitating
1 : to move or stir up
  • The water was agitated by wind.
2 : disturb, excite, or anger
  • She was agitated by the bad news.
3 : to try to stir up public feeling
  • agitate for change


\-tā-tər\ noun

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