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, the Latin adjective meaning "better," and is a synonym of the verbs better and improve. When is it better to use ameliorate? If a situation is bad, ameliorate indicates that the conditions have been made more tolerable. Thus, one might refer to drugs that ameliorate the side effects of chemotherapy, a loss of wages ameliorated by unemployment benefits, or a harsh law ameliorated by special exceptions. Improve and better apply when something bad is being made better (as in "the weather improved" or "she bettered her lot in life"), and they should certainly 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

Example Sentences

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 Even the abolitionists gave their attention not to the task of ameliorating conditions among slaves but to transforming slaves into free people. John Hope Franklin, "The Land of Room Enough," 1981, in Race and History1989 trying to ameliorate the suffering of people who have lost their jobs This medicine should help ameliorate the pain.
Recent Examples on the Web It is followed by repatriation of people, and then by additional actions to ameliorate the harm done. April Brown,, 21 Oct. 2022 If homelessness does spike next year, White worries it will be met with more arrests and sweeps, instead of drawing on the ideas that have shown the potential to ameliorate the problem at its root. Nicholas Slayton, The New Republic, 12 Sep. 2022 Ukraine and Russia reached a deal on Friday that would allow grain exports from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea to resume in order to ameliorate the global food shortage caused by the war, CNN reported. Grayson Quay, The Week, 23 July 2022 This funding would help these organizations cover PrEP and associated lab bills and adherence services, hire more providers, and expand education and outreach efforts to ameliorate stigma and awareness challenges. Carl Schmid, STAT, 23 June 2022 In many cases, researchers only stumbled across the drugs’ potential to ameliorate symptoms. New York Times, 9 May 2022 Championing his coal-producing state, Manchin slams as unduly punitive some Build Back Better proposals to ameliorate climate change. John Harwood, CNN, 9 Jan. 2022 The 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the guerrillas known as the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, called for rural development to ameliorate the poverty driving so many Colombians to turn to coca cultivation. Los Angeles Times, 23 Oct. 2022 The current situation may well be beyond the scope of what even the best messaging can ameliorate, unless anger over the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade makes all the difference. Michael Sokolove, The New Republic, 15 Sep. 2022 See More

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

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 26 Nov. 2022.

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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