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

Along with Lyft, the company has been shown to exacerbate traffic congestion in a lot of major cities, undercutting its central argument that ride-sharing can help drive down vehicle ownership. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: Uber," 29 Dec. 2018 The rate at which qualified teachers are leaving the profession is likely to exacerbate that trend. Eric Morath, WSJ, "Teachers Quit Jobs at Highest Rate on Record," 28 Dec. 2018 Amazon’s presence will tend to exacerbate those cities’ crises of housing affordability and overburdened transportation infrastructure. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The tragedy of Amazon’s HQ2 selections, explained," 9 Nov. 2018 Negative news stories have also been shown to exacerbate personal worries unrelated to the content of the story itself. Samantha Boardman, Marie Claire, "Help! The News Is Making Me Feel Depressed," 9 Oct. 2018 With inventory lagging, existing home sales have dropped With prices already at all-time highs in most markets, rising interest rates are likely to exacerbate affordability problems. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "Is the housing market starting to cool off?," 2 Aug. 2018 And in Vogue’s October issue, Gaga shared her frustrations with people not taking the condition seriously, as well as how her mental-health issues have exacerbated her symptoms. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "From Serena Williams to Gwyneth Paltrow, 7 Times Celebrities Got Candid About Their Health Struggles in 2018," 19 Dec. 2018 Anxiety exacerbates airway constriction; deep, conscious breathing dispels anxiety. Brad Rickman, Condé Nast Traveler, "Traveling With Asthma," 17 Apr. 2018 York could not give an answer, but everyone recognized the mobility in the world, and the teeming overcrowded cities could exacerbate the spread of a disease. Kitty Leshay, Courant Community, "The Mill: More Than A Museum," 27 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

11 Jan 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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