es·​ca·​late | \ˈe-skə-ˌlāt, nonstandard -skyə- \
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 , nonstandard  -​skyə-​ \ noun
escalatory \ ˈe-​skə-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē , 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

If trade tensions continue to escalate, the higher prices of steel and lumber will eventually translate to higher rents for apartments and offices, experts say. Adam Vaccaro,, "Tariffs are making it more expensive to build in Boston — and that could push rents even higher," 12 July 2018 Disregarding the sentiments of the Senate, Trump continues to escalate his trade war. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Toothless trade resolution demonstrates Congress’s unwillingness to check Trump," 12 July 2018 And with no clear end or compromise in sight, tensions between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies will probably continue to escalate. Madeleine Ngo, Vox, "Trump just intensified his trade war with China," 11 July 2018 The government canceled the price hike as the unrest began to escalate, and airlines nixed flights to the impoverished country. NBC News, "Strike shuts down Haiti capital after three days of protests," 9 July 2018 CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reports the incident occurred Friday after a fight started to escalate outside a sports bar. CBS News, "Protesters demand action after Portland State University police shoot, kill Navy veteran," 2 July 2018 Manny Navarro The asking price for Leonard in trade talks has also continued to escalate to the point of absurd. Manny Navarro, miamiherald, "Has Pat Riley's approach with the Heat changed now that LeBron is headed out west?," 2 July 2018 The dispute escalated into the suspect shooting the guard, who returned fire, according to police. Jennifer Baker,, "Security guard injured in West End shootout," 15 June 2018 Police believe the incident began as an argument between two individuals at the party that continued to escalate, Woodruff said. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "Police: Teen injured in weekend shooting at Lawrence party not expected to survive," 13 June 2018

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

11 Nov 2018

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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Comments on escalate

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