es·​ca·​late ˈe-skə-ˌlāt How to pronounce escalate (audio)
-skyə- How to pronounce escalate (audio)
escalated; escalating

intransitive verb

: to increase in extent, volume, number, amount, intensity, or scope
a little war threatens to escalate into a huge ugly oneArnold Abrams
ˌe-skə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce escalate (audio)
 nonstandard  -skyə-
ˈe-skə-lə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce escalate (audio)
 nonstandard  -skyə-

Examples of escalate in a Sentence

The conflict has escalated into an all-out war. a time of escalating tensions We are trying not to escalate the violence. Salaries of leading executives have continued to escalate. The cold weather has escalated fuel prices.
Recent Examples on the Web President Kennedy was assassinated just a few weeks later, and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, would escalate the war. Lucy McKeon, New York Times, 3 June 2024 In the next two years, tensions escalated between the United States and Germany over violations of neutrality and freedom of the seas, coming to a head with the loss of American lives in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. Richard Selcer, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1 June 2024 Shortness of breath will quickly escalate if the reaction causes your throat to swell and close off, blocking your air supply.9 Other symptoms of severe allergic reactions include:9 Diarrhea Itching Vomiting Wheezing The remedy is getting a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline) immediately. Amanda Gardner, Health, 1 June 2024 Customs officials escalated the crackdown by suspending several brokers from participating in a program that expedites such shipments. Eleanor Pringle, Fortune, 31 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for escalate 

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

Word History


back-formation from escalator

First Known Use

1944, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of escalate was in 1944

Dictionary Entries Near escalate

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


es·​ca·​late ˈes-kə-ˌlāt How to pronounce escalate (audio)
escalated; escalating
: to increase in extent, volume, or scope : expand
escalate prices
escalation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on escalate

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