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 country’s basket-case economy and escalating confrontations between the government and the opposition have made life untenable for many Venezuelans. Dan Kopf, Quartz, "The latest refugee crisis is not happening anywhere near a war zone," 20 June 2019 The Administration’s mounting pressure on Iran began with a war of words but has escalated toward more serious confrontations. Tessa Berenson, Time, "Exclusive: President Trump Calls Alleged Iranian Attack on Oil Tankers 'Very Minor'," 19 June 2019 But President Donald Trump has threatened Beijing with new tariffs on about $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, an act that would escalate tensions while levying a punitive tax on Apple’s most profitable product. Debby Wu, Fortune, "Apple Is Reportedly Asking Suppliers to Shift at Least 15% of Output from China," 19 June 2019 The bill is one of several bills taking aim at escalating housing costs, this one by increasing the supply of smaller homes in desirable neighborhoods., "Plan to eliminate single-family zoning in Oregon neighborhoods headed for key votes," 18 June 2019 Minutes before firing gunshots, an off-duty Chicago police officer called 911 and gave a dire warning about an escalating road-rage incident. Morgan Greene,, "Police cleared in controversial Mount Greenwood shooting," 18 June 2019 Pelosi and House leadership are trying to throw a bone to the rising number of pro-impeachment Democrats in the caucus by escalating their anti-Trump rhetoric. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "House Leadership Is Looking Flakey," 17 June 2019 Previously, the trade conflict between the US and China centered on escalating tariffs. Klint Finley, WIRED, "Are Rare Earths the Next Pawn in the US-China Trade War?," 17 June 2019 Apart from building fund balances, district officials are having to deal with substantial amounts of debt and escalating debt service costs. Mike Nolan, Daily Southtown, "Lincoln-Way says financial health improving," 14 June 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

24 Jun 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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showing courage and determination

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