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 Just 21 days after the wedding, McIntosh and Montgomery got into an argument that escalated until the pair was wrestling over a gun., "The killing brought a tragic end to the violent relationship that Montgomery had been trying to leave. It also came just months after Bragg, who was then a police officer, shot her in the arm, but escaped charges.," 5 Dec. 2019 The incident began with an argument between two 29-year-old men aboard the Blue Line train that escalated into one man punching and kicking the other, police said, citing early reports. William Lee,, "Cops: Gun owner draws weapon following Blue Line assault," 4 Dec. 2019 Yemen has been in the throes of a bloody civil war that has escalated one of the most dire humanitarian crises today. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Gabriela Hearst to Donate 100 Percent of Proceeds to Help Children in Yemen," 2 Dec. 2019 While in seclusion resident behavior continued to escalate. Lisa Hammersly, Arkansas Online, "Child site violated U.S. rules, records show," 1 Dec. 2019 Four protesters were shot by security forces in Baghdad when demonstrators tried to cross the strategic Ahrar bridge leading to the fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government, amid escalating violence. Washington Post, "The Latest: Death toll of Iraqi protesters at 40 in 24 hours," 29 Nov. 2019 The protagonists are, in fact, finishing up a somewhat-awkward first date -- having met online -- when their worlds are abruptly shattered by a traffic stop that quickly escalates thanks to the trigger-happy cop into a fatal encounter. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Queen & Slim' builds a romance in the ashes of police violence," 27 Nov. 2019 Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images Nearly two decades ago, Eric Barrier — facing criminal charges arising from a traffic stop that escalated — hired a lawyer who later went to prison for life. Ed Shanahan, New York Times, "Eric B., Hip-Hop Legend, Avoids Prison in Case Out of the Past," 22 Nov. 2019 Levas said the model also addresses patterns of escalating violence. Talis Shelbourne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A violence prevention model from the United Kingdom could help reduce violence in the Milwaukee area," 4 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

9 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 12 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).


a period of high artistic development

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