ame·​lio·​rate ə-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrāt How to pronounce ameliorate (audio)
ameliorated; ameliorating

transitive verb

: to make better or more tolerable
medicine to ameliorate the pain

intransitive verb

: to grow better
amelioration noun
ə-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrā-tiv How to pronounce ameliorate (audio)
ameliorator noun
amelioratory adjective

Did you know?

Ameliorate traces back to melior, a Latin adjective meaning "better," and is a rather formal synonym of the verbs better and improve. When is it better to use ameliorate? Allow us to improve your understanding: if a situation is bad, ameliorate indicates that the conditions have been made more tolerable. Thus, one might refer to medicine that ameliorates pain from an injury, a loss of wages ameliorated by unemployment benefits, or a harsh law ameliorated by special exceptions. Improve and better apply when something bad is getting better or being made better (as in "the weather improved" or "she bettered her lot in life"), and they should always be chosen over ameliorate when something good is getting better still ("he improved his successful program," "she bettered her impressive scores").

Choose the Right Synonym for ameliorate

improve, better, help, ameliorate mean to make more acceptable or to bring nearer a standard.

improve and better are general and interchangeable and apply to what can be made better whether it is good or bad.

measures to further improve the quality of medical care
immigrants hoping to better their lot

help implies a bettering that still leaves room for improvement.

a coat of paint would help that house

ameliorate implies making more tolerable or acceptable conditions that are hard to endure.

tried to ameliorate the lives of people in the tenements

Examples of ameliorate in a Sentence

The disparate impact of the risk imposed by the "loser pays" rule can be ameliorated. Indeed, there are features of the British legal system which have led some observers to find the rule … to be considerably more benign to poorer litigants. Edward F. Sherman, Texas Law Review, June 1998
And, after all, some illnesses are psychogenic. Many can be at least ameliorated by a positive cast of mind. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996
trying to ameliorate the suffering of people who have lost their jobs This medicine should help ameliorate the pain.
Recent Examples on the Web National Security, Not Election-Year Politics A simple question: If Congress can ameliorate the border crisis by tightening up the removal process, toughening asylum standards, and increasing detention resources, why not just do that? Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 6 Feb. 2024 Any effort on the employer’s part to ameliorate these forces would undoubtedly be popular. Jane Thier, Fortune, 10 Jan. 2024 For example, the application of just a bit of gravity may ameliorate many of these problems. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 17 July 2023 That said, Slow Horses’s willingness to kill off characters and traffic in ticking time bomb tension does partly ameliorate that structural weakness. J. Oliver Conroy, Washington Examiner, 12 Jan. 2024 Helping to ameliorate his situation isn’t a responsibility that should fall on you alone. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 5 Jan. 2024 Moreover, the decision by nearly every automaker to adopt the North American Charging Standard (NACS) port, which Tesla developed, will likely improve the charging experience and ameliorate range anxiety. Morgan Korn, ABC News, 1 Jan. 2024 Physicians who treat people with sickle cell today prescribe a number of medicines that can reduce the frequency of pain crises, increase hemoglobin levels, or ameliorate symptoms, but none targets the underlying genetic cause of the disease. Adam Feuerstein, STAT, 8 Dec. 2023 The detailed allegations in the House Ethics Committee report ameliorated some members' concerns, although the report did not make a formal recommendation for expulsion or another appropriate punishment for Santos. Geoffrey Skelley, ABC News, 1 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History


alteration of meliorate — see meliorate

First Known Use

1656, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of ameliorate was in 1656


Dictionary Entries Near ameliorate

Cite this Entry

“Ameliorate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ame·​lio·​rate ə-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrāt How to pronounce ameliorate (audio)
ameliorated; ameliorating
: to make or grow better or more tolerable
-ˌmēl-yə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce ameliorate (audio)
-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrāt-iv How to pronounce ameliorate (audio)

More from Merriam-Webster on ameliorate

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