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

The global ethnonationalist surge is significantly escalating the risk of a conflict-ridden climate scenario, said Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, the head of climate science at the policy nonprofit Climate Analytics. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "The Blood-Dimmed Tide," 16 Sep. 2019 Among 709 people taking AR101 in two Aimmune trials, 74 needed at least one dose of epinephrine to prevent a reaction from escalating. Jennifer Couzin-frankel, Science | AAAS, "First peanut allergy treatment gains backing from FDA advisory panel," 13 Sep. 2019 Ahead of Netanyahu’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia also reportedly warned that the prime minister’s promise to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley could escalate tensions. Fox News, "Netanyahu says he sought to annex Jordan Valley before election but Israel’s AG halted move: report," 12 Sep. 2019 That is how the country’s debt initially escalated. Seán Mfundza Muller, Quartz Africa, "South Africa’s economy is in a perilous state and is running out of time to get fixed," 7 Aug. 2019 Police said a fight escalated to a shooting shortly before 9 p.m., and a 16-year-old boy was hit in one of his calves. Pauline Repard, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Teen pleads not guilty in shooting outside Escondido movie theater," 10 July 2019 Which brings us, of course, to this week’s other headlines, regarding the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China. Washington Post, "Oil Seems Remarkably Relaxed as Global Tensions Rise," 18 Sep. 2019 Crude prices also have been boosted this week by news that the U.S. and China are resuming trade talks to potentially help thaw the escalating trade war. Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle, "Crude prices rise as inventories fall," 5 Sep. 2019 Skip to main content President Donald Trump says that Chinese officials called to restart talks amid an escalating trade war that recently sent markets spinning. Jamie L. Lareau, USA TODAY, "Trump would cost General Motors billions if he actually orders business out of China," 27 Aug. 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

14 Oct 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

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