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

Worried that the situation might escalate to grave robbing, Dillinger’s family went to great lengths to ensure that his body remained firmly in the ground, encasing his remains under layers of concrete and iron. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Why John Dillinger’s Relatives Want to Exhume His Body," 2 Aug. 2019 Those negotiations have been ongoing for years and last week escalated into the first strike by ferry workers of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific since 1977. Annie Zak, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska ferry workers union and state reach tentative contract deal; Saturday is earliest some sailings could resume," 2 Aug. 2019 Talks this week in Shanghai confirmed that the trade war is unlikely either to end soon or escalate soon. The Economist, "The biggest winners from the Fed’s rate cut," 1 Aug. 2019 At the same time, although a deal seems far off, fears that Trump could significantly escalate the conflict by taxing an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods have also receded. CBS News, "Fed is poised to cut rates for first time since the recession," 31 July 2019 In a sign of the escalating concerns within the party, several Democratic governors this month expressed alarm about open borders rhetoric. Stephanie Saul, New York Times, "In Wisconsin Swing District, a Range of Views on Immigration," 31 July 2019 The French wine industry on Monday weighed into an escalating spat between the Trump Administration and Paris over France’s proposed new tax on technology companies, saying: leave us out of it, S'il vous plaît! Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "China, Heat, and Trump: Why French Winemakers Are Having the Worst Summer Ever," 29 July 2019 Some of the banks were on shaky ground; others sold because of escalating regulatory costs and paltry profit margins., "Cleveland banks get healthier, but there are fewer of them," 28 July 2019 Kotevska and Stefanov are unyieldingly detached in their depiction of this brewing conflict, which never escalates into an all-out fight. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Honeyland Makes the Story of a Lonely Beekeeper Feel Epic," 25 July 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

5 Aug 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

What made you want to look up escalate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a period when something is suspended

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