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 Investors on Friday signaled broad pessimism about the move that will likely escalate tensions with the U.S., pushing the city’s benchmark stock index down by nearly 6%, its worst one-day fall since July 2015. Chuin-wei Yap And Jing Yang, WSJ, "Bruised Businesses Try to Divine Hong Kong’s Fate Under National-Security Law," 22 May 2020 Now, as the Covid-19 crisis has escalated the health privacy debate, lawmakers are trying to play catch-up. Rebecca Robbins, STAT, "Federal legislation to protect health data has made little progress. Will that change in the Covid-19 era?," 20 May 2020 Nany's clearly still drunk and angry, and things escalate. Sydney Bucksbaum,, "The Challenge: Total Madness recap: An elimination upset rocks the bunker," 14 May 2020 At the same time, the use of heroin and illegally manufactured synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and counterfeit prescription opioids, has escalated. Victoria Tutag Lehr, The Conversation, "Pharmacists could be front-line fighters in battle against opioid epidemic," 21 Apr. 2020 De-escalating techniques are important things to have right now. The Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax Live: The chip thing," 8 Apr. 2020 Remove them, and in less than 10 seconds the system escalates its warnings and then cancels the function altogether. Dave Vanderwerp, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Begs to Be Driven Hard," 2 Apr. 2020 Increasingly dangerous anti-carrier weapons built by adversaries and the escalating costs and development issues with the ships could lead to smaller, cheaper ships. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Are We Nearing the End of the Supercarrier?," 12 Mar. 2020 On one hand, nutrient deficiencies remain widespread, especially among young children and women, while non-communicable diseases are rapidly escalating and contributing to high levels of disability and even premature death. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "Scientists are studying how diet, incomes, and diseases are correlated in India," 5 Mar. 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

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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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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