exacerbate

verb
ex·​ac·​er·​bate | \ig-ˈza-sər-ˌbāt \
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 \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for exacerbate

Synonyms

aggravate, complicate, worsen

Antonyms

allay, alleviate, assuage, ease, help, mitigate, relieve

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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

The rise of jihadism in Africa is rooted in bad governance, exacerbated by population pressure and climate change. The Economist, "Jihadists are trying to take over the Sahel," 12 July 2018 Some families missed their court dates because of confusion, often exacerbated by the effects of trauma from their home countries or other mental illness. Dara Lind, Vox, "A new study blows up Trump’s “catch-and-release” myth," 11 July 2018 The black/wide gap on consumption seems to be rooted in continued greater homeownership by whites, perhaps exacerbated by the 2008 recession. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "White Americans love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—and flashlights.," 10 July 2018 The kind of disease exacerbated by climate change is not new to the reefs. Evan Halper, latimes.com, "Racing to save Florida’s coral from climate change, scientists turn to a once-unthinkable strategy: ‘assisted evolution’," 9 July 2018 Locals push crates filled with treasures along the rail line, completing an exhausting exercise exacerbated by the 100-degree temperatures. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Rare Photographs Put Focus on Egyptians Who Worked Alongside Carter to Excavate Tutankhamun’s Tomb," 9 July 2018 Muslims as well as indigenous people have been caught in the middle of a five-decade-old insurgency in Mindanao, exacerbated by loggers and mining companies eager to tap its rich resources including gold, copper, and nickel, experts say. Rina Chandran, The Christian Science Monitor, "Philippine city ushers in 'community-led rehabilitation' after siege," 29 June 2018 This problem is likely exacerbated by the demographics of the tech industry itself: women are significantly underrepresented, and the workforce is largely white or Asian. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Microsoft’s facial recognition service now less bad for nonwhites," 27 June 2018 Keeping dogs out of the sun isn't just important in avoiding sunburns, but also avoiding heat stroke (exacerbated by fur) and keeping paws safe. Southern Living, "Here's How To Prevent Your Dog From Getting A Sunburn," 22 June 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near exacerbate

ex-

Ex

exa-

exacerbate

exact

exacta

exact differential

Statistics for exacerbate

Last Updated

1 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for exacerbate

The first known use of exacerbate was in 1660

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More Definitions for exacerbate

exacerbate

verb

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 \
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 \ noun

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