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

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

Productivity gains allow companies to pay workers more without having to raise the cost of their products, which can exacerbate inflation. Martin Crutsinger, Fox News, "US productivity grew at strong 2.9 percent rate in Q2," 15 Aug. 2018 As Boyle notes, teenage boys aren’t exactly encouraged to be open with their emotions, which can be exacerbated in a boarding school setting. Jaya Saxena, GQ, "Anthony Boyle, the Maybe Bad Boy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," 5 June 2018 Chang says to avoid harsh scrubs and skincare products that can further irritate skin and to stop picking, popping, and squeezing acne as that will exacerbate inflammation. Audrey Noble, Harper's BAZAAR, "How To Get Rid of Acne Scars—Forever," 21 Jan. 2019 Some critics say the upzones would worsen the look of neighborhoods and could exacerbate gentrification, while proponents say more market-rate and low-income apartments are needed to combat that very problem. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "Seattle City Council starts debate on upzones; here’s how neighborhoods across the city would be affected," 8 Jan. 2019 United exacerbated the situation by instructing Dowling to return to her seat and by serving excessive alcohol to Wedl, the suit alleges. Dennis Romero /, NBC News, "Woman sues United Airlines after allegedly being groped by off-duty pilot on flight," 10 July 2018 The Maduro administration has said that U.S. financial sanctions, in particular, are hurting its ability to import food and medicine and exacerbating the country’s growing humanitarian crisis. Jim Wyss, miamiherald, "European Union hits 11 more Venezuelans with sanctions," 25 June 2018 The threat of arrest has led traders to demand higher profits, which are exacerbating the difference between official and unofficial currency rates—a gap the authorities had been trying to close to stabilize the economy. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "As Economy Withers, Iran Imposes Harsh Crackdown on Fraud," 26 Dec. 2018 So the rivers are pretty saturated which exacerbates this problem. Fox News, "FEMA chief Brock Long on Hurricane Florence recovery efforts; Will allegation affect Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation?," 16 Sep. 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

8 Mar 2019

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 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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Comments on exacerbate

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