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

This is likely due at least in part to the role that hormonal changes involved in menstruation, pregnancy, and birth control can play in bringing on or exacerbating migraines. Korin Miller, SELF, "How to Tell if Vestibular Migraines Are Why You Get Dizzy So Often," 12 July 2018 In addition, the new moon will generate higher-than-normal tides Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the weather service says, and swells associated with Chris could exacerbate any tidal flooding and result in minor beach erosion. Anthony R. Wood, Philly.com, "Tropical Storm Chris could become hurricane and affect Jersey beaches; Beryl making comeback?," 10 July 2018 Hammertoes are also often accompanied by bunions, bony bumps that form at the base of the big toe and crowd the toes even more within the shoe, exacerbating the situation. Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times, "What Can You Do About a Hammertoe?," 6 July 2018 As with congressional districts, a lot rides on how a district chooses to draw these boundaries, with gerrymandering exacerbating demographic differences between neighborhoods and towns. Jack Schneider, The Atlantic, "The Problem With Generalizing About ‘America’s Schools’," 5 July 2018 By agreeing with the Irish court, and declaring the Polish court system to be in effect illegitimate, the ECJ exacerbated the EU’s widening east-west divide. The Economist, "Breaking point: December 2020," 5 July 2018 What really exacerbates the whole thing are pop artists. Chris Varias, Cincinnati.com, "Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders wants you to put your **** phone away at live shows," 2 July 2018 But some recent research suggests that the cooling effect of trees may win out—meaning deforestation can drive local temperatures up and exacerbate the influence of ongoing climate change. Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, "2017 Was a Really Bad Year for Tropical Forests," 28 June 2018 Government officials were harshly criticized last year for allowing homelessness and the resulting sanitation problems to fester, which exacerbated the spread of the disease. Michael Smolens, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Progress is hard to come by in San Diego's fight against homelessness," 22 June 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

4 Oct 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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