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

Three months earlier, in January 2023, as fighting escalated in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin had announced the creation of the Federal Union of Russia and Belarus. The Economist, "Europe alone: July 2024," 6 July 2019 Samsung’s disclosure Friday illustrates the troubles that an escalating series of trade fights is wreaking on the global economy, particularly for huge companies that sell finished products as well as components around the world., "Jay-Z’s group sues NY company; Samsung’s woes; Deliveroo deal challenged," 5 July 2019 Concerns about the trade war escalating were part of the reason Powell suggested that rates could be cut. Eshe Nelson, Quartz, "A strong US jobs report puts the markets, the Fed, and the data at odds," 5 July 2019 Mall limps into 1990s Competition from Westridge Mall, changing demographics and Maryvale’s escalating crime rates contributed to the mall’s demise. Douglas C. Towne, azcentral, "Phoenix once had the region's largest mall. What happened to Maryvale Shopping City?," 4 July 2019 Those short-term issues have been compounded by slowing growth in the region, global uncertainty, and the escalating risk of a trade war with the US. Cassie Werber, Quartz at Work, "Christine Lagarde says women should use the “glass cliff” to their advantage," 4 July 2019 So far, fighting has also damaged water and sanitation facilities nearly 60 times, escalating the threat of communicable diseases in an area where immunization rates are low. Radina Gigova, CNN, "Fighting in Ukraine threatens water supply for 3.2 million," 3 July 2019 Hulu has teased that June (Elisabeth Moss) will escalate her risky efforts to find Hannah after hitting another setback in the previous episode. Ew Staff,, "What to Watch on Wednesday: June ups her efforts to find Hannah on The Handmaid's Tale," 3 July 2019 The increased security comes after last year’s gathering, when a fight with umbrellas escalated to gunshots that killed Jacky Vue. Mara H. Gottfried, Twin Cities, "As police investigate flier about annual Hmong sports tournament in St. Paul, organizer welcomes community," 3 July 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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Statistics for escalate

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for escalate

The first known use of escalate was in 1944

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on escalate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with escalate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for escalate

Spanish Central: Translation of escalate

Nglish: Translation of escalate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of escalate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on escalate

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an act or instance of editing or removing

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