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 The horrific attacks, which resulted in the deaths of three women and six children, sent shockwaves through communities on both sides of the border, shedding light on the escalating brutality of the drug cartels that dominate large swaths of Mexico. Fox News, "Siblings of Mexican cartel killing unite for photograph," 23 Nov. 2019 Beatings at the time of arrest have become commonplace, sometimes escalating to frenzy. The Economist, "Hong Kong stares into the abyss amid growing violence," 21 Nov. 2019 Ryan Sorensen was walking with two friends in the early morning hours of Sept. 15 when a verbal altercation with two strangers escalated to a stabbing, and his death, along the 2000 block of South 71st Street. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "West Allis police are offering a $2,000 reward to find two suspects linked to a fatal stabbing," 20 Nov. 2019 Dreams of quick deliveries in one of the region’s biggest markets have tangled with a lack of street signs, a general preference for cash payments, worries about fake products and escalating security concerns. Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, "The ‘Amazon of Africa’ shutters in Cameroon — just before Black Friday," 20 Nov. 2019 But the nation's escalating tensions with the U.S.—home of giant chipmakers like Intel and Qualcomm—may be spurring China's firms and supply chains to finally catch up. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "China Has Always Trailed the U.S. in Chipmaking. In the Trade War Era, Will It Finally Catch Up?," 15 Nov. 2019 It is believed that Rao chose not to impose central rule in Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located when tensions were escalating. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "VHP, Modi, Narasimha Rao’s roles in Ayodhya land title case," 9 Nov. 2019 Democratic reversals, including in South Africa, have been exacerbated by autocratic behaviors globally and escalating big power rivalries. John J Stremlau, Quartz Africa, "The fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago still resonates across Africa," 8 Nov. 2019 Those enterprise customers can choose various plans at escalating prices, paying more to have Fitbit’s network of human coaches involved in helping people manage their conditions. Megan Thielking, STAT, "Google to acquire Fitbit for $2.1 billion in major health tech deal," 1 Nov. 2019

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

25 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 6 December 2019.

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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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Comments on escalate

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


very cautious or careful

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