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

This extreme devastation was mostly because of storm surge, which was exacerbated by high tide and geography. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, "Hurricanes: How These Destructive Storms Form, and Why They Get So Strong," 26 June 2019 The unrest caused by the anti-Rohingya crackdown and exodus has been exacerbated by conflict between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, a Buddhist insurgent group, which has been fighting with the government since last year. James Griffiths, CNN, "Myanmar shuts down internet in conflict areas as UN expert warns of potential abuses during blackout," 25 June 2019 Stocks are marked to market every second and that volatility is exacerbated by the computer algorithms that drive big trading programs. Nancy Tengler, USA TODAY, "Don't let volatility or the trade war scare you. This is a good time to buy stocks," 25 June 2019 Evidence suggests that intimate partner violence stems from a desire for control or power that can be exacerbated by substance abuse. Emilie Eaton, ExpressNews.com, "Another drug court in San Antonio will tackle problem of family violence," 17 June 2019 That can be exacerbated for students like Mauricio, whose family was unfamiliar with the entrance exam, the selective high schools and the choice process overall. Talia Richman, baltimoresun.com, "'The American dream — except it's real': Baltimore student who immigrated from Mexico heads to Ivy League," 12 June 2019 In the case of Russia, the problem is exacerbated by the Western origin of three quarters of all the equipment and pretty much all of the software. Leonid Bershidsky, Twin Cities, "Leonid Bershidsky: Russia’s power grid is an easy target for US hacking," 21 June 2019 This was exacerbated when residents of Beni and Butembo were barred from voting in the recent presidential election, ostensibly because of health risks. North Kivu, Time, "How Misinformation Is Making It Almost Impossible to Contain the Ebola Outbreak in DRC," 20 June 2019 In the case of Russia, the problem is exacerbated by the Western origin of three quarters of all the equipment and pretty much all of the software. Leonid Bershidsky, The Denver Post, "Bershidsky: Details revealed about U.S. efforts to hack Russia’s power grid may be a message to Putin," 18 June 2019

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

12 Jul 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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