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 The San Dieguito Union High School District has been sued by its teachers’ union in an effort to block the district’s plans to reopen next month while cases of COVID-19 continue to escalate across the county. Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Dieguito teachers go to court to prevent district from reopening during worst of pandemic," 21 Dec. 2020 Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to escalate across the country, forcing many states to reinstitute lockdown measures that have already devastated huge swaths of the American economy. Alex Scimecca, Fortune, "Photos: U.S. health workers begin receiving COVID-19 vaccine," 14 Dec. 2020 Officers will also learn how to de-escalate a dangerous situation and are taught about the side effects of medications. Evan Casey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Wauwatosa Police Department budget is expected to increase by nearly $246,000, largely due to new body cameras for officers," 2 Nov. 2020 First, law enforcement agencies should ensure that every officer is comprehensively trained in how to de-escalate mental health crises without resorting to deadly force. Arkansas Online, "OPINION | CHRISTY E. LOPEZ: Police tragedies avoidable," 1 Nov. 2020 The kid doesn’t like being shifted to the attic, despite the attic being objectively cooler than his old room, and so the two one-up each other with pranks that start at uncomfortable and escalate to bordering on grievous bodily harm. Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune, "Robert De Niro plays 'Grandpa' in a comedy that doesn't deserve him," 8 Oct. 2020 Cuyahoga County, at the time, was marked to escalate to purple. Emily Bamforth, cleveland, "See how Northeast Ohio public schools changed learning models throughout fall semester (maps)," 12 Dec. 2020 According to USA Today, the spiral of injustice represents how hateful rhetoric can escalate to violence. Julia Musto, Fox News, "Anne Frank memorial in US defaced with swastika stickers," 10 Dec. 2020 But don’t get caught up in the moment and let things escalate into a cookie festival. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, "Paging Dr. Hamblin: I Just Want to Give People Cookies," 9 Dec. 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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Statistics for escalate

Last Updated

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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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

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