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

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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 Wolf’s economic shutdown, imposed statewide on March 23, exacerbated the uncertainty – even as pandemic restrictions are being lifted in most regions. Christen Smith, Washington Examiner, "Pennsylvania lawmakers unveil two-part budget plan," 27 May 2020 Attempts by rental companies to sell used cars back into the market could also exacerbate problems in the auto industry. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "Some markets are hitting their highest levels since March. But huge risks remain," 26 May 2020 Unfortunately, political ideals are also being exacerbated because of this. Amy Dickinson, oregonlive, "Ask Amy: Constant tardiness add strain to friendship bonds," 23 May 2020 Unfortunately, political ideals are also being exacerbated because of this. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Friend’s tolerance is tested by tardiness," 23 May 2020 Stress can exacerbate substance cravings and contributes to relapse. Popular Science, "COVID-19 is setting back recovery from opioid addiction," 23 May 2020 The pandemic has exacerbated existing delays in finding veterans in need, filing their paperwork and waiting for decisions. Jamie Rowen, The Conversation, "Memorial Day: Why veterans are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic," 22 May 2020 The pandemic may be exacerbating—and revealing—stark divisions that have long existed in science and other fields, with troubling implications for the research these fields go on to produce. Melody Schreiber, The New Republic, "Female Scientists Are Bearing the Brunt of Quarantine Child-Rearing," 22 May 2020 Slowing or stopping water use altogether in these buildings in particular could exacerbate existing copper problems. London Gibson, Indianapolis Star, "Lead, Legionella: Experts urge building owners to flush their water lines before reopening," 21 May 2020

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

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbate. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for exacerbate

exacerbate

verb
How to pronounce exacerbate (audio)

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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