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

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

On a crowded flight, that noise can make situations less-than-ideal, and quieter cabins have only exacerbated the issue. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Using Physics To Build a Quieter Airplane Toilet," 5 Apr. 2019 Many who have stayed behind struggle to afford supplies of food and medicine, while nationwide power outages this month have exacerbated widespread misery. Christopher Torchia, The Seattle Times, "Red Cross ready to aid Venezuela, warns against politics," 29 Mar. 2019 The problem is that YouTubers can’t take a break, and any engagement with their audiences, in any form, exacerbates the problem. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "YouTube is failing its creators," 21 Sep. 2018 Add waves, storm surges, and other extreme weather events into the mix—which are exacerbated by warming oceans—and those remote estimates quickly resolve into a global humanitarian crisis. Jill Kiedaisch, Popular Mechanics, "The Oceans Have Absorbed an Unfathomable Amount of Energy Due to Climate Change," 11 Jan. 2019 Dickson says Apple has struggled to cleanly integrate the number of charging coils built within the mat, too, a problem that has reportedly been exacerbated by the relatively compact size of the device. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "Reports: Apple AirPower still overheating, may be “doomed to failure”," 17 Sep. 2018 While sources say that was inefficient in and of itself, it was also exacerbated by how quickly Uber was hiring safety drivers. Johana Bhuiyan, Recode, "Months after a self-driving crash, Uber is being slower and more deliberate as it gets back on public roads to test its technology," 24 July 2018 Survivors arrived at the camps with a host of overlapping health issues— tuberculosis, starvation, infectious skin conditions — that were exacerbated by deficient care, said Jael Geis of the Jewish Museum in Berlin at the conference. Emanuella Grinberg, Smithsonian, "When a Bavarian Monastery Provided a Home to Jewish Refugees," 11 July 2018 Red tide is another kind of algae that can be exacerbated by fertilizers and other pollution. Jennifer Kay, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Blue-green algae, red tide soil beaches, threaten Florida tourism," 10 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

19 Apr 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 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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