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 escalate (audio) , nonstandard  -​skyə-​ \ noun
escalatory \ ˈe-​skə-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce escalate (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 Authorities said officers confronted Watson and talked to him multiple times to try to de-escalate the situation near the entrance to his apartment. Washington Post, 10 Sep. 2021 The instructor wants to see the officers draw on their training and try to de-escalate a situation, try to connect with and calm down a subject. Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 July 2021 Capitol Police and reporters on the ground have disputed the notion officers were friendly with protesters, instead stating they were overwhelmed by the size of the mob and officers spoke to rioters to try to de-escalate the situation. Andrew Solender, Forbes, 11 June 2021 For that reason, Genesis’ staffers are hosting training sessions to explain how servers, bartenders and managers can de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, 30 Apr. 2021 Yang said officers are taught to make critical decisions in dealing with people in crisis, including those suffering mental problems or the effects of drug use, and then de-escalate the situation., 6 Apr. 2021 It was woefully misguided for the leaders of his country to believe diplomatic niceties could de-escalate a crisis in which one of their allies had taken an American pilot prisoner and in which their own navy had destroyed three American ships. Elliot Ackerman, Wired, 16 Feb. 2021 Ward said these messages fly in the face of modern police training on how to bring peace or de-escalate tense situations. NBC News, 2 Nov. 2020 Progressives claim such tear-gas bans will help de-escalate violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 1 Nov. 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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Dictionary Entries Near escalate




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Statistics for escalate

Last Updated

20 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for escalate



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

More from Merriam-Webster on escalate

Nglish: Translation of escalate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of escalate for Arabic Speakers


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