exacerbate

verb
ex·​ac·​er·​bate | \ ig-ˈza-sər-ˌbāt How to pronounce exacerbate (audio) \
exacerbated; exacerbating

Definition of exacerbate

transitive verb

: to make more violent, bitter, or severe The new law only exacerbates the problem.

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Other Words from exacerbate

exacerbation \ ig-​ˌza-​sər-​ˈbā-​shən How to pronounce exacerbation (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for exacerbate

Synonyms

Antonyms

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Exacerbate vs. Exasperate

Exacerbate is frequently confused with exasperate, and with good reason. Not only do these words resemble one another in spelling and pronunciation, they also at one time held exceedingly similar meanings. Exasperate is today most commonly used as a synonym of annoy, but for several hundred years it also had the meanings “to make more grievous” and “to make harsh or harsher.” Exacerbate is now the more common choice of these two words when one seeks to indicate that something is becoming increasingly bitter, violent, or unpleasant. It comes in part from the Latin word acer, meaning “sharp,” whereas exasperate is from asper, the Latin word for “rough.”

Did You Know?

Make it a point to know that the Latin adjective acer, meaning "sharp," forms the basis of a number of words that have come into English. The words acerbic ("having a bitter temper or sour mood"), acrid ("having a sharp taste or odor"), and acrimony ("a harsh manner or disposition") are just the tip of the iceberg. First appearing in English in the 17th century, exacerbate derives from the Latin prefix ex-, which means "out of" or "outside," and acerbus, which means "harsh" or "bitter" and comes from acer. Just as pouring salt in a wound worsens pain, things that exacerbate can cause a situation to go from bad to worse. A pointed insult, for example, might exacerbate tensions between two rivals.

Examples of exacerbate in a Sentence

The declining retirement security faced by growing numbers of Americans is being exacerbated by increasing longevity and quickly rising health care costs. — Jeff Madrick, New York Review of Books, 20 Mar. 2008 … the sway that pack journalism holds on the Beltway press corps persists. The Crowd is never so influential as in the ever-lengthening season of presidential campaigns. The feverish obsessions of the blogosphere have only exacerbated the phenomenon: Now the herd just turns faster in pursuit of some ginned-up "controversy" or faux scandal. Editor & Publisher, April 2007 The proposed factory shutdown would only exacerbate our unemployment problems. His angry comments have exacerbated tensions in the negotiation process.
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Recent Examples on the Web For example, would stoking additional demand under lower supply of housing just exacerbate affordability. The Washington Post, "Color of Money: The racial wealth gap in America," 18 June 2020 Molecules called eicosanoids, which are derived from omega-6 fatty acids, are known to increase blood pressure, trigger the immune response, and exacerbate inflammation, Fine explains. Karla Walsh, Better Homes & Gardens, "5 Foods to Avoid if You Have Arthritis (and 5 That Might Help), According to Dietitians," 15 June 2020 The Arizona monsoon season marks the time that weather hazards like excessive heat, dust storms, flash floods, weather likely to cause or exacerbate wildfires and lightning are most likely to occur. Alana Minkler, azcentral, "Monsoon season starts Monday, kicking off hazardous weather conditions in Arizona," 14 June 2020 These rules will likely cause a further reduction in trade, which will inevitably exacerbate the low recycling rate. Surendra Patawari, Fortune, "Why COVID-19 is a wake-up call for sustainability," 13 June 2020 The new coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout threaten to exacerbate mortality rates for African-Americans, which have risen in recent years for blacks in middle age. Janet Adamy, WSJ, "Coronavirus, Economic Toll Threaten to Worsen Black Mortality Rates," 13 June 2020 Amid mounting suspicion of apps that have ties with China, the incident is sure to exacerbate worries about using Zoom in the US and elsewhere. Jane Li, Quartz, "Censorship from Beijing is one more reason for you to worry about using Zoom," 11 June 2020 The team asked about certain liver and kidney issues that the drug might exacerbate. Eric Boodman, STAT, "How a family’s frantic search for remdesivir — and a 330-mile road trip — reshaped Tennessee’s Covid-19 response," 9 June 2020 In the skin, cortisol increases the production of oils, which can cause breakouts and exacerbate skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Bill Sullivan, The Conversation, "Science of ‘Seinfeld’," 5 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exacerbate.' 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 exacerbate

1660, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for exacerbate

borrowed from Latin exacerbātus, past participle of exacerbāre "to irritate, exasperate, make worse," from ex- ex- entry 1 + acerbāre "to make bitter, make worse," verbal derivative of acerbus "acid, bitter, bitterly hostile, distressing" — more at acerb

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Time Traveler for exacerbate

Time Traveler

The first known use of exacerbate was in 1660

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Last Updated

27 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbate. Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for exacerbate

exacerbate

verb
How to pronounce exacerbate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of exacerbate

: to make (a bad situation, a problem, etc.) worse

exacerbate

transitive verb
ex·​ac·​er·​bate | \ ig-ˈzas-ər-ˌbāt How to pronounce exacerbate (audio) \
exacerbated; exacerbating

Medical Definition of exacerbate

: to cause (a disease or its symptoms) to become more severe her condition was exacerbated by lack of care

Other Words from exacerbate

exacerbation \ -​ˌzas-​ər-​ˈbā-​shən How to pronounce exacerbation (audio) \ noun

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