verb ex·ac·er·bate \ ig-ˈza-sər-ˌbāt \
|Updated on: 9 Aug 2018

Definition of exacerbate

exacerbated; exacerbating
: to make more violent, bitter, or severe
  • The new law only exacerbates the problem.


play \ig-ˌza-sər-ˈbā-shən\ noun

exacerbate was our Word of the Day on 09/11/2014. Hear the podcast!

Examples of exacerbate in a Sentence

  1. The declining retirement security faced by growing numbers of Americans is being exacerbated by increasing longevity and quickly rising health care costs. —Jeff MadrickNew York Review of Books20 Mar. 2008
  2. … 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 & PublisherApril 2007
  3. The proposed factory shutdown would only exacerbate our unemployment problems.

  4. His angry comments have exacerbated tensions in the negotiation process.

Recent Examples of exacerbate from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of exacerbate

borrowed from Latin exacerbātus, past participle of exacerbāre "to irritate, exasperate, make worse," from ex- 1ex- + acerbāre "to make bitter, make worse," verbal derivative of acerbus "acid, bitter, bitterly hostile, distressing" — more at acerb

exacerbate Synonyms

Near Antonyms

ameliorate, better, improve;

Related Words

amplify, deepen, intensify, magnify;

EXACERBATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of exacerbate for English Language Learners

  • : to make (a bad situation, a problem, etc.) worse

Medical Dictionary


transitive verb ex·ac·er·bate \ ig-ˈzas-ər-ˌbāt \

medical Definition of exacerbate

exacerbated; exacerbating
: to cause (a disease or its symptoms) to become more severe
  • her condition was exacerbated by lack of care


play \-ˌzas-ər-ˈbā-shən\ noun

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excessive admiration or flattery

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