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 exacerbate (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 news has been met with outrage and protests from many residents who say the series has the potential to exacerbate recent social and economic shifts, and may forever brand the town in the image of social media caricature. NBC News, "Netflix faces Byron Bay backlash as Australian beach town fights reality show," 22 Apr. 2021 The sanctions are certain to exacerbate tensions with Russia, which promised a response, even as President Joe Biden said the administration could have taken even more punitive measures but chose not to in the interests of maintaining stability. Time, "The U.S. Expels Russian Diplomats and Imposes Sanctions Over a Hacking Attack," 16 Apr. 2021 The sanctions, presumably intended to send a clear retributive message to Russia and to deter similar acts in the future, are certain to exacerbate an already tense relationship between the U.S. and Russia. BostonGlobe.com, "US expels Russian diplomats, imposes new round of sanctions," 15 Apr. 2021 The sanctions, presumably intended to send a clear retributive message to Russia and to deter similar acts in the future, are certain to exacerbate an already tense relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Eric Tucker And Aamer Madhani, chicagotribune.com, "Biden expels 10 Russian diplomats, imposes new sanctions over election interference, SolarWinds hack," 15 Apr. 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken -- who traded diplomatic jabs with Chinese officials in Alaska -- is not flinching from warnings to Russia and China likely to further exacerbate tensions. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "America's enemies line up to put Biden to the test," 14 Apr. 2021 To exacerbate the situation, the Pride have had to live with that abysmal cellar-dwelling finish for two long offseasons. Mike Bianchi, orlandosentinel.com, "Orlando Pride have been great role models, but now they need to be winners | Commentary," 9 Apr. 2021 This is likely to exacerbate several local factors restricting vaccine rollouts, including logistics such as production capacity, supply chain, the availability of healthcare workers, financing, and vaccine hesitancy. Jackie Bischof, Quartz, "Africa may not reach herd immunity against Covid-19 until 2023," 28 Mar. 2021 The pandemic is likely to exacerbate attrition and burnout. New York Times, "As Pandemic Upends Teaching, Fewer Students Want to Pursue It," 27 Mar. 2021

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

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbate. Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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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 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 exacerbate (audio) \ noun

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Comments on exacerbate

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