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.

Other Words from exacerbate

exacerbation \ ig-​ˌza-​sər-​ˈbā-​shən How to pronounce exacerbate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for exacerbate

Synonyms

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web Being in too big a rush to get ‘back to normal’ can exacerbate postpartum health risks. Adriana Gallardo, ProPublica, 10 May 2022 One of the most common symptoms of long Covid is postexertional malaise, which can make exertion—physical, cognitive, or emotional—exacerbate your symptoms. Sumathi Reddy, WSJ, 9 May 2022 Among other effects, these changes can exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Washington Post, 26 Apr. 2022 Besides, to his eyes, abandoning the 50+1 system would exacerbate the problem, rather than solve it. New York Times, 22 Apr. 2022 Interference in shipments of wheat or corn from Russia and Ukraine could exacerbate food inflation, most notably in parts of the world that depend on them for supplies. Julia Horowitz, CNN, 15 Feb. 2022 This helps trap the water on your skin and can reduce dryness that would exacerbate your irritation. Korin Miller, SELF, 6 May 2022 As the fighting drags on, concerns are growing that the war could exacerbate a global hunger crisis. New York Times, 6 May 2022 Western sanctions and a potential EU ban on Russian oil risks leaving a market gap that could exacerbate the situation. Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN, 6 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of exacerbate was in 1660

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Statistics for exacerbate

Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbate. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for exacerbate

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

More from Merriam-Webster on exacerbate

Nglish: Translation of exacerbate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of exacerbate for Arabic Speakers

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