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 The law does not differentiate between mental illnesses that can be ameliorated with medication, such as schizophrenia, bipolar and clinical depression, and those that are incurable, such as dementia. Jessica Wapner, Scientific American, 15 Aug. 2023 The 1 million-ton plan appears to be a separate bid to ameliorate concerns in Africa, where Russia has sought to build its influence at the expense of the West. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 5 Sep. 2023 Dementia in elderly dogs may be indicated by a slow gait, positive cultural beliefs about aging ameliorate mild cognitive impairment in the old, and Japanese centenarians have highly diverse gut viromes. Will Stephenson, Harper's Magazine, 16 Aug. 2023 Spain could be about to be governed by a coalition that includes a far-right party for the first time since the Francisco Franco dictatorship ended in 1975, propelled in part by frustration surrounding a drought and the environmental measures that are in place to ameliorate it. Patrick Smith, NBC News, 22 July 2023 McCarthy made that pledge, according to the news outlet, to ameliorate Trump’s reported fury that the House speaker had suggested the former president may not be the GOP’s best standard-bearer in 2024. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 21 July 2023 The findings offer clues about how to build better programs to ameliorate the homelessness crisis in the Golden State and across the country. Ali Martin, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 July 2023 This leads to the researchers to conclude that Bromelain is effecting at ameliorating physical symptoms and improves general well being [11] FlexAgain is a good source of Bromelain, or it's generally sold in a number of herbal shops in store and online as a standalone. Discover Magazine, 6 July 2023 An easy way to ameliorate the worker shortage, without going down the controversial path of policy related to undocumented immigrants, is to help high-skilled foreign workers who are legally in America — and already approved for green cards — stay in America. Jon Hartley, National Review, 1 Feb. 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 21 Sep. 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!