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

The threat of arrest has led traders to demand higher profits, which are exacerbating the difference between official and unofficial currency rates—a gap the authorities had been trying to close to stabilize the economy. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "As Economy Withers, Iran Imposes Harsh Crackdown on Fraud," 26 Dec. 2018 So the rivers are pretty saturated which exacerbates this problem. Fox News, "FEMA chief Brock Long on Hurricane Florence recovery efforts; Will allegation affect Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation?," 16 Sep. 2018 The uneven recovery, which exacerbated a growing income gap that began in the 1970s, has had profound ramifications. Jim Puzzanghera, The Seattle Times, "A decade after the financial crisis, many Americans are still struggling to recover," 10 Sep. 2018 Stay hydrated and be aware of humidity levels, which can exacerbate the issues caused by high temperatures. Andres Picon, BostonGlobe.com, "7 tips for staying cool in this horrible heat," 5 July 2018 African-American groups were outraged at the merit board's decision, which exacerbated years-long divides between police officers and an increasingly distrustful portion of the city and led to calls for reform. Ryan Martin, Indianapolis Star, "Aaron Bailey family receives $650,000 settlement from Indianapolis," 26 June 2018 District officials were constantly changing bus routes and school assignments, which exacerbated the growing resistance to integration among many parents. Kristina Rizga, The Atlantic, "A Witness to the Desegregation—and Resegregation—of America's Schools," 1 May 2018 The Trump administration has suspended funding for legal orientation programs at immigration detention centers, a decision that could exacerbate court backlogs and undermine due process, immigration experts said Wednesday. Jason Buch, San Antonio Express-News, "Trump administration cuts legal orientation program for immigrants," 11 Apr. 2018 For a company widely expected to continue to fund its strategy through external capital raises, a fall in the share price can take on a self-fulfilling nature that further exacerbates the volatility of the share price. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "Tesla Shares Fall to Lowest Point in a Year on Model 3 Worries, Crash Probe," 28 Mar. 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

8 Feb 2019

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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