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 These new regulations also make new-home construction more expensive (check out the prices on induction stoves) and therefore exacerbate the state’s home-affordability crisis — double irony points! Will Swaim, National Review, "Can California Top Its Most Ironic Political Stories of 2019?," 3 Jan. 2020 Difficulty coming out can put a strain on mental health, social networks and exacerbate drug and alcohol problems. Rosie Mulford, refinery29.com, "Why I Shouldn’t Have To Come Out Again (And Again) In 2020," 2 Jan. 2020 Instead, race expands and exacerbates Willy’s suppressed fears that the world regards him as outcast, a loser, a clown. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: Arthur Miller’s Dying ‘Salesman’ Is Reborn in London," 2 Jan. 2020 This issue is urgent because many are struggling to hold on now and a pending recession will only exacerbate these challenges. Jamie Giellis, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Taxes, fees and wages are killing Denver’s small businesses. We must save them.," 27 Dec. 2019 Sticking with bad behaviors: Safety behaviors are actions that help us feel better in the moment, but exacerbate worry and can even lead to GAD. Jelena Kecmanovic, Houston Chronicle, "How to combat constant worry and anxiety," 24 Dec. 2019 The plaintiffs say the federal government’s energy policies promote and exacerbate climate change and infringe on the youths’ constitutional rights. oregonlive, "Youth climate activists push for trial in landmark suit, say federal documents show continued neglect," 23 Dec. 2019 That has made many people mad and has exacerbated political tensions, leading to angry street protests sparked by a variety of measures — from a hike in subway fares in Chile to an increase in gasoline prices in Iran. Andres Oppenheimer, Twin Cities, "Andres Oppenheimer: Huge protests around the world have things in common, including fake news attacks," 19 Dec. 2019 As my research shows, transgender people experience high rates of discrimination in housing and shelter services, exacerbating their already elevated rates of homelessness. Jonah Dechants, The Conversation, "Transgender homeless Americans find few protections in the law," 16 Dec. 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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Time Traveler for exacerbate

Time Traveler

The first known use of exacerbate was in 1660

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Statistics for exacerbate

Last Updated

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbated. Accessed 19 January 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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Comments on exacerbate

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