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

Antonyms

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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 lack of potable water additionally increases the risk that intestinal problems like cholera, among other health conditions common in rural Indigenous populations, will exacerbate the effects of COVID-19. Jeffrey H. Cohen, The Conversation, "Indigenous Mexicans turn inward to survive COVID-19, barricading villages and growing their own food," 11 Aug. 2020 The governor of Rondônia has predicted the smoke will exacerbate coronavirus symptoms, leading to more deaths. Washington Post, "Last year’s Amazon fires stirred international outrage. This year’s dry season has started out worse.," 8 Aug. 2020 And untreated, the pandemic’s heavier psychiatric burden could exacerbate those gaps. Shefali Luthra, USA TODAY, "Job insecurity, child care: Moms reporting psychological distress amid coronavirus pandemic," 7 Aug. 2020 Although Cabinet-level visits to Taiwan have occurred under previous administrations, Azar's visit in the midst of the pandemic and broader issues with Beijing will exacerbate tensions. Matthew Lee, Star Tribune, "AP Explains: From Hong Kong to TikTok, US-China ties plummet," 7 Aug. 2020 If a patient is receiving good care and support from a ketamine clinic, then switching treatment plans could exacerbate symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, "Ketamine’s promise as an antidepressant is being undermined by its lack of profit," 6 Aug. 2020 Inmates are in confined spaces, oftentimes with poor ventilation, and the heat can exacerbate breathing and cardiovascular problems, which can also be triggered by the virus. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, "The heat is on: Texas inmates say they are battling COVID-19 in prisons with no A/C," 31 July 2020 All of which could exacerbate further climate change. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Far-Reaching Consequences of Siberia’s Climate-Change-Driven Wildfires," 9 July 2020 Those headwinds could exacerbate what Lee and others say is one of the biggest hurdles to expanding domestic production: The U.S. mining industry faces fierce opposition from many Democrats and environmental advocates. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Republicans prepare for energy ‘cold war’ with China," 17 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

14 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbate. Accessed 15 Aug. 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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Comments on exacerbate

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