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 Incidental collection is factored into the program as an acceptable risk to Americans’ civil liberties, ameliorated by various internal procedures approved by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. WIRED, 10 Nov. 2023 In some places, water managers actively refill groundwater to ameliorate this tragedy of the commons. Erica Gies, Scientific American, 25 Oct. 2023 Arab leaders canceled an important summit with Biden, frustrating his plans to ameliorate the growing anger in the Middle East, not just at Israel, but of what's seen as American support for a military campaign that's left Gaza awash in blood. ABC News, 22 Oct. 2023 Could these have been ameliorated by a female presence in the household? Han Ong, The New Yorker, 16 Oct. 2023 Some are attempting to ameliorate critics by creating opt-out features, where people who don’t want their work to be used can ask to be removed from future training sets. Kate Knibbs, WIRED, 12 Oct. 2023 China’s acquisition of a large, highly capable nuclear force could create new geopolitical dangers, but none of these will be ameliorated by expanding the U.S. nuclear force. Charles L. Glaser, Foreign Affairs, 5 Oct. 2023 This one was designed to ameliorate rather than exacerbate psychopathologies. Gillian Silverman, The New Yorker, 15 July 2023 Perhaps most importantly, using Russian funds to ameliorate Ukrainian damages could set a precedent to ultimately avoid future conflagrations. Rafi Schwartz, The Week, 28 July 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 30 Nov. 2023.

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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