al·​le·​vi·​ate ə-ˈlē-vē-ˌāt How to pronounce alleviate (audio)
alleviated; alleviating; alleviates

transitive verb

: relieve, lessen: such as
: to make (something, such as pain or suffering) more bearable
a drug that alleviates the symptoms
using relaxation techniques to alleviate stress
To draw customers, [Richard G.] Rosenberg became certified in pedorthics—an area that involves the design, make and modification of shoes to alleviate foot ailments.Dana Hedgpeth
: to partially remove or correct (something undesirable)
government programs to alleviate poverty
Enticing retirees into the work force to alleviate the current labor shortage …Cullen Murphy
alleviation noun
the alleviation of arthritic pain
… the stability of the developed world is as dependent on alleviation of problems in the third world as on the ability to keep the nuclear arms race under control. Carl Marcy
alleviator noun
plural alleviators
… firefighters' camaraderie with the city and with each other is the biggest stress alleviator, [former Boston Fire Commissioner Paul] Christian said. Justine Hoffher

Did you know?

Where does the word alleviate come from?

Now for a bit of light reading. Alleviate comes from Latin levis, meaning "having little weight." (Levis also gave rise to the English adjective light, as in "not heavy.") In its early days, alleviate could mean "to cause (something) to have less weight" or "to make (something) more tolerable." The literal "make lighter" sense is no longer used, and today only the "relieve" sense remains. Incidentally, not only is alleviate a synonym of relieve, it's also a cousin; relieve comes from levare ("to raise"), which in turn comes from levis.

Choose the Right Synonym for alleviate

relieve, alleviate, lighten, assuage, mitigate, allay mean to make something less grievous.

relieve implies a lifting of enough of a burden to make it tolerable.

took an aspirin to relieve the pain

alleviate implies temporary or partial lessening of pain or distress.

the lotion alleviated the itching

lighten implies reducing a burdensome or depressing weight.

good news would lighten our worries

assuage implies softening or sweetening what is harsh or disagreeable.

ocean breezes assuaged the intense heat

mitigate suggests a moderating or countering of the effect of something violent or painful.

the need to mitigate barbaric laws

allay implies an effective calming or soothing of fears or alarms.

allayed their fears

Example Sentences

For decades, as you probably know, researchers have found that when you tell patients that you're giving them medicine, many report that their symptoms are alleviated, even if they're only taking sugar pills. Daniel Zwerdling, Gourmet, August 2004
Granholm has spent the morning giving a major public address on state finance issues, courting local officials in meetings, and, in between, talking with me. We'd discussed the state of the Michigan economy and her ideas for developing a new high-tech corridor outside Detroit that focuses on homeland security innovation; we went over her ideas for alleviating overcrowding in the state's emergency rooms. Jonathan Cohn, New Republic, 14 Oct. 2002
When applied in ointment form, capsaicin helps alleviate the discomfort of arthritis and psoriasis. Taken internally as a diluted tincture, it helps keep the blood flowing smoothly and strengthens the cardiovascular system. Nina Simonds, Gourmet, September 2002
Ridley, a British journalist with a doctoral degree in zoology, does touch on the incredible potential of genetics for alleviating human misery.  … But much of his remarkable book is focused on a higher plane of pure intellectual discovery. Lee M. Silver, New York Times Book Review, 27 Feb. 2000
Before discussing what must be done to alleviate the environmental and social crises afflicting the globe, Chief Oren Lyons … of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, wanted to drive to a gym in Syracuse, New York, and watch his son shadowbox. Paul Schneider, Audubon, March/April 1994
finding ways to alleviate stress a car pool alleviates some of the stress of driving the kids to and from school every day See More
Recent Examples on the Web But in recent years, the Egyptian government has started clearing the way for new development projects meant to alleviate the congestion of the city’s roads. Christopher Parker, Smithsonian Magazine, 31 May 2023 Much work has gone into figuring out how to alleviate some of these fears and facilitate quietude, such as building out a public lighting infrastructure and passing noise codes with special hotlines for noise complaints. Jess Reia, Fortune, 30 May 2023 One such option is the PetFusion Ultimate Dog Bed, which features a comfortable and supportive memory foam mattress to help alleviate joint pain and discomfort. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 24 May 2023 One of those options will likely be called up in the coming days to alleviate a unit that has operated with seven pitchers for the past two weeks. Theo Mackie, The Arizona Republic, 11 May 2023 The group reported that in 2022, carriers reduced their schedules by about 15% to alleviate pressure on the National Airspace System, and U.S. airlines are currently accommodating record demand while operating 10% fewer flights than in 2019. Alexandra Skores, Dallas News, 8 May 2023 These tools will alleviate repetitive and time-consuming tasks – a relief to eschew. Keith Ferrazzi, Forbes, 3 May 2023 The lenses feature blue light protection to help alleviate eye strain during long hours of staring at a computer monitor. Michael Kan, PCMAG, 2 May 2023 In cases where the technology is used with good intent, such as to treat disease and alleviate suffering, questions of patient accessibility become paramount. David Liu, The Conversation, 19 Apr. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Late Latin alleviatus, past participle of alleviare, from Latin ad- + levis light — more at light

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near alleviate

Cite this Entry

“Alleviate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


al·​le·​vi·​ate ə-ˈlē-vē-ˌāt How to pronounce alleviate (audio)
alleviated; alleviating
: to make easier to put up with : relieve
alleviation noun

Medical Definition


transitive verb
al·​le·​vi·​ate ə-ˈlē-vē-ˌāt How to pronounce alleviate (audio)
alleviated; alleviating
: to make (as symptoms) less severe or more bearable
a lotion to alleviate itching
alleviation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on alleviate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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