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

Blumenthal also cited the psychological problems that could be exacerbated by weight-loss marketing messages. Julie Mazziotta, PEOPLE.com, "Connecticut Senator Calls for Investigation into Detox Teas Sold by ‘Celebrity Influencers’," 5 June 2019 Alondra tells us that the drama at home is exacerbated by the fact that her mother’s most recent love interest has all but moved in with them. Leila Atassi, cleveland.com, "Alondra Rivera teeters on the brink of homelessness, when her mother threatens to cut her from the lease: A Greater Cleveland," 5 June 2019 The Nasdaq Composite slid into bear-market territory in December as investors grappled with the possibility of slowing U.S. economic growth, a worry that was exacerbated by the continuing trade spat with China. Corrie Driebusch, WSJ, "Nasdaq Exits Bear Market as Stocks Rally," 15 Feb. 2019 Many of the surrounding circumstances—the manipulation that was exacerbated by military hierarchy, the hostile atmosphere among my fellow classmates—felt twisted, messy, just…wrong. Polo Tate, Marie Claire, "Sexual Assault in the Military: One Woman's True Story," 8 Aug. 2018 The Green New Deal also seeks to address the dire income inequality that has existed since European colonizers stepped foot on this native land, and has only been exacerbated by climate change, both here and on global terms. Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, "Climate Disaster Is a Labor Issue. Here's Why.," 23 May 2019 The agency said the fire, which may have been exacerbated by the vehicle's battery, is the focus of the investigation, not the vehicle's semiautonomous system. Peter Holley, chicagotribune.com, "Video shows Tesla bursting into flames on Los Angeles street 'out of the blue'," 18 June 2018 In some cases, CBD can exacerbate heartburn or lead to mild allergic reactions, such as hives (though this is likely a reaction to the carrier oil added to the CBD, says Capano). Laurel Leicht, Marie Claire, "An Expert Answers All Your Questions About CBD," 26 Mar. 2019 But those problems are exacerbated, Stevenson argued, by economic inequality that distances America’s leadership class, culturally and geographically, from struggling members of society. Matthew Heimer, Fortune, ""Do Some Uncomfortable and Inconvenient Things": A Civil Rights Champion's Call to Action for CEOs," 27 June 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

14 Jun 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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