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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Mohebi also warned that the sanctions could exacerbate regional tensions. Mike Corder, The Seattle Times, "Iran asks UN’s highest court to suspend US sanctions," 27 Aug. 2018 Cannabis use might exacerbate psychotic disorders in those who are susceptible to them, the report says. Rachel Becker, The Verge, "Legalizing weed is the right move for New York, the state’s health department says," 13 July 2018 That dependence has been exacerbated by cuts to the federal food stamp program, said Triada Stampas, the vice president of research and public affairs at the Food Bank. New York Times, "New York’s Emergency Food Program Gets More Funding, but Will It Be Enough?," 8 July 2018 The problem can be exacerbated in hot weather, especially when no wind is blowing to disperse particulates in the air, said Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Kate Talerico, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville had worst air quality in country last weekend," 21 June 2018 Insiders familiar with the State Department’s counter-disinformation effort say the problem was exacerbated when Congress and the Obama administration pushed the G.E.C. to combat Russia and other state actors. Abigail Tracy, The Hive, "“A Different Kind of Propaganda”: Has America Lost the Information War?," 23 Apr. 2018 The rise of jihadism in Africa is rooted in bad governance, exacerbated by population pressure and climate change. The Economist, "Jihadists are trying to take over the Sahel," 12 July 2018 Some families missed their court dates because of confusion, often exacerbated by the effects of trauma from their home countries or other mental illness. Dara Lind, Vox, "A new study blows up Trump’s “catch-and-release” myth," 11 July 2018 The black/wide gap on consumption seems to be rooted in continued greater homeownership by whites, perhaps exacerbated by the 2008 recession. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "White Americans love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—and flashlights.," 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about exacerbate

Share exacerbate

Listen to Our Podcast about exacerbate

Dictionary Entries near exacerbate

ex-

Ex

exa-

exacerbate

exact

exacta

exact differential

Statistics for exacerbate

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for exacerbate

The first known use of exacerbate was in 1660

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on exacerbate

What made you want to look up exacerbate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a private place of worship

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!