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

Definition of escalate

intransitive verb

: to increase in extent, volume, number, amount, intensity, or scope a little war threatens to escalate into a huge ugly one— Arnold Abrams

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Other Words from escalate

escalation \ ˌe-​skə-​ˈlā-​shən How to pronounce escalation (audio) , nonstandard  -​skyə-​ \ noun
escalatory \ ˈe-​skə-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce escalatory (audio) , nonstandard  -​skyə-​ \ adjective

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web That includes making contact with someone at the scene other than the mentally ill person in order to gain a fuller understanding and potentially de-escalate the situation, Police Chief William McManus said Friday. Brian Chasnoff,, "New rules for officers on mental health calls," 12 Sep. 2020 Officers also may feel more comfortable taking steps to de-escalate a situation when challenged by a woman, Sherman said. Washington Post, "Since 2015, police have fatally shot nearly 250 women. Like Taylor, 89 of them were killed at homes or residences where they sometimes stayed.," 4 Sep. 2020 Hours later, Police Chief Chuck Lovell told reporters at a news conference that officers didn’t want to escalate the situation. oregonlive, "Pro-Trump supporter who shot paintballs into downtown Portland crowd is sued for $250,000," 2 Sep. 2020 The coaches are trained to de-escalate disruptive behavior and cultivate relationships with students — approaches now being pursued in the Minneapolis and St. Paul districts. Anthony Lonetree, Star Tribune, "Hopkins school board agrees to pull officer from high school," 1 Sep. 2020 When this had happened before, the staff member would defend him- or herself, and Savage-Rumbaugh would try to de-escalate the conflict. Kevin Miyazaki, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Can Bonobos Teach Us About the Nature of Language?," 10 Aug. 2020 The mayor and Chief Medaria Arradondo have moved ahead with their own changes since Floyd’s death, including requiring officers to document attempts to de-escalate situations whether or not force is used. NBC News, "Minneapolis commission takes up proposal to disband police," 5 Aug. 2020 The mayor and Chief Medaria Arradondo have moved ahead with their own changes since Floyd's death, including requiring officers to document attempts to de-escalate situations whether or not force is used. CBS News, "Commission stalls on amendment to dismantle Minneapolis Police Department, keeping it off the ballot in November," 5 Aug. 2020 But Efiom wants to change police departments from the inside and to be there to de-escalate situations that might otherwise end in another Black life lost. USA Today, "These Black teens are turning 18 in Tamir Rice’s America," 22 June 2020

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

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First Known Use of escalate

1944, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for escalate

back-formation from escalator

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Time Traveler for escalate

Time Traveler

The first known use of escalate was in 1944

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Statistics for escalate

Last Updated

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for escalate


How to pronounce escalate (audio) How to pronounce escalate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of escalate

: to become worse or to make (something) worse or more severe
: to become greater or higher or to make (something) greater or higher

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