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

Capital Gazette didn’t want to press charges because there was a fear pressing charges would exacerbate the situation. Helen Ubiñas, Philly.com, "The hate we get: Why journalists need to stop accepting threats as part of the job | Helen Ubiñas," 3 July 2018 There was a fear that doing so would exacerbate an already flammable situation. Fox News, "Former agent fires back at calls to abolish ICE," 30 June 2018 The Justice Department’s claim that key ACA provisions are unconstitutional would almost certainly exacerbate that trend. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "Inside the Trump administration's assault on protections for people with preexisting medical conditions," 11 June 2018 Yet other senators said casinos changes pushed by Johns would exacerbate gambling addiction in the state. Julia O'donoghue, NOLA.com, "Louisiana Senate approves moving riverboat casinos to land," 24 Apr. 2018 Each time, he has been convinced by his lawyers and advisers that taking the step would only exacerbate his problems. Anchorage Daily News, "Trump sought to fire Mueller in December," 11 Apr. 2018 During the season, there were times the Cavs hadn’t played well against teams that ran a four-guard offense, and that would only be exacerbated with the loss of ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter to a broken wrist. Jonathan Jones, SI.com, "Virginia Ends Historic Season by Suffering Biggest Upset in College Basketball History," 17 Mar. 2018 Arming teachers would only exacerbate the problem of classroom safety. The Editors, Marie Claire, "Armed and Academic? What 30 Teachers Think About Guns," 23 Feb. 2018 The addition of a citizenship question would exacerbate this climate of fear among minority and immigrant populations and drive critical participation levels even lower. Eric H. Holder Jr., New Republic, "How the Trump administration’s scheme to rig the census threatens American democracy," 20 Feb. 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

20 Sep 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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Comments on exacerbate

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