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

Then when Instagram DMs that appeared to be from Gabbana were leaked, the outrage was further exacerbated. Aditi Shrikant, Vox, "Dolce & Gabbana founders apologize for stereotype-filled Chinese marketing campaign," 23 Nov. 2018 But regional factors are also exacerbating the problem. Lisa Rathke, The Seattle Times, "It may be harder to find the perfect Christmas tree," 21 Nov. 2018 This smoke can also exacerbate pre-existing health issues, which is why people with heart disease, lung disease, asthma, and chest pain are at a greater risk for issues, per the CDC. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "The Dangerous Health Risks That Could Follow the California Wildfires," 16 Nov. 2018 But on a bridge, this exacerbates the problem, giving rise to additional small sideways oscillations that amplify the swaying. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "New study sheds more light on what caused Millennium Bridge to wobble," 30 Oct. 2018 Particularly on race and ethnicity issues which, far from being healed, have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year. Megan Friedman, Good Housekeeping, "Here's Everything You Need to Know About Megyn Kelly’s NBC Exit," 26 Oct. 2018 Outside threats, like sun exposure and pollution, exacerbate the process. Jolene Edgar, Allure, "The Truth About Growth Factors in Skin Care and Why They're Controversial," 2 Aug. 2018 Facebook is exacerbating the volume of it, but the problem’s elsewhere. Eric Johnson, Recode, "General Magic tried to invent a smartphone in the 1990s. This is why it failed.," 30 July 2018 Second, adding more liquid to existing wetness doesn't solve the problem but can actually exacerbate it — particularly if long hair covers the ears, preventing them from ever fully drying out. Houston Chronicle, "Vicks VapoRub for poison ivy itch," 8 July 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

29 Nov 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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