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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web His death is expected to spark fresh protests and escalate public outcry against the police force, which is already accused of using excessive force in its bid to quell the city’s worst political crisis in decades. Hillary Leung / Hong Kong, Time, "Hong Kong Student Who Fell From Height During a Protest Dies," 8 Nov. 2019 As this practice escalated in recent years, colleges bid against each other for students by offering more generous scholarships. Robert Massa, The Conversation, "Here’s why colleges are being forced to close their doors - and what they can do to stay open," 7 Nov. 2019 Global economic growth is weakening, reducing demand, and climate crisis fears are escalating. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Investors are dumping oil. So why would anyone buy Saudi Aramco?," 6 Nov. 2019 Tensions escalated amid a push by Bridgeport city council members representing the city’s north end to further restrict the number of unrelated people living in a house. Kenneth R. Gosselin,, "Turnout picking up across Connecticut as voters head to polls in municipal elections," 6 Nov. 2019 His family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and police, alleging police used excessive force against Martin and failed to de-escalate the encounter. oregonlive, "Grand jury transcript released in Portland police fatal shooting of 31-year-old Lane Christopher Martin," 6 Nov. 2019 Growth is slowing in the United States and worldwide partly because Trump’s own tariffs have raised costs and escalated uncertainties for businesses., "Why Trump’s tariffs haven’t revitalized American steelmakers - The Boston Globe," 5 Nov. 2019 During the final hour of the auction on Monday, commenters posted jokes and running commentary to the auction website nearly every minute while the bidding escalated. Gregory Thomas,, "SF’s DeLorean hovercraft sells for $44,088 at auction," 4 Nov. 2019 The testimony offer, made over the weekend to Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, followed escalating attacks by Trump and his GOP allies who are demanding the whistleblower's identity be revealed. Jill Colvin,, "Trump, who refused to provide anything but written answers in Russia probe, says whistleblower’s written answers ‘not acceptable’," 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.

See More

First Known Use of escalate

1944, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for escalate

back-formation from escalator

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


not being in agreement or harmony

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!