verb ame·lio·rate \ə-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrāt, -ˈmē-lē-ə-\

Definition of ameliorate




  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to make better or more tolerable medicine to ameliorate the pain

  3. intransitive verb
  4. :  to grow better


play \-ˌmēl-yə-ˈrā-shən, -ˌmē-lē-ə-\ noun


play \-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrā-tiv, -ˈmē-lē-ə-\ adjective


play \-ˌrā-tər\ noun


play \-rə-ˌtȯr-ē\ adjective

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Examples of ameliorate in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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 History, 1989

  4. trying to ameliorate the suffering of people who have lost their jobs

  5. This medicine should help ameliorate the pain.

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 what is being made better can be good or bad (as in "the weather improved" and "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").

Origin and Etymology of ameliorate

alteration of meliorate —see meliorate

First Known Use: 1656

Synonym Discussion of 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.

AMELIORATE Defined for English Language Learners


verb ame·lio·rate \ə-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrāt, -ˈmē-lē-ə-\

Definition of ameliorate for English Language Learners

  • : to make (something, such as a problem) better, less painful, etc.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up ameliorate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a rounded knoll or a ridge of ice

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