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

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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 The worry over sick employees and multiple reopenings exacerbate an already trying time for restaurants and bars. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "5 more Milwaukee-area restaurants close temporarily after workers test positive for coronavirus," 6 July 2020 Population aging and underfunded retirement schemes will exacerbate another trend: that of people working beyond the usual retirement age. Quartz Staff, Quartz, "Mauro Guillén on how the pandemic is accelerating history," 30 June 2020 The move, advocates say, could exacerbate unsafe conditions by allowing homes to employ unqualified staff members. Areeba Shah, Washington Post, "Caregivers on the front lines in nursing homes risk health, safety during pandemic," 29 June 2020 This year, the risk of respiratory diseases due to air pollution from fires could exacerbate the impact of Covid-19, particularly for indigenous people whose lands may be nearer the fires. Hazel Pfeifer, CNN, "Scientists fear deforestation, fires and Covid-19 could create a 'perfect storm' in the Amazon," 19 June 2020 And how does the pandemic exacerbate such existing problems? Debbie Ponchner, Scientific American, "Latin America Faces a Critical Moment in the Battle against COVID-19," 17 June 2020 The inaction is terrible enough, but proceeding with a rally at this point might exacerbate the outbreak in and around Tulsa. Joel Mathis, TheWeek, "Trump the superspreader?," 15 June 2020 The evictions threaten to exacerbate a problem that has plagued people of color like Rooks long before the pandemic, when landlords across the U.S. were filing about 300,000 eviction requests every month. CBS News, "Cash-strapped renters face eviction despite coronavirus moratoriums," 15 June 2020 The economic crisis caused by the pandemic may exacerbate the trend, as companies look for ways to become leaner and more competitive. Will Knight, Wired, "The Pandemic Is Propelling a New Wave of Automation," 12 June 2020

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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Last Updated

9 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbate. Accessed 10 Jul. 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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