ex·​as·​per·​ate | \ ig-ˈza-spə-ˌrāt How to pronounce exasperate (audio) \
exasperated; exasperating

Definition of exasperate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to cause irritation or annoyance to It's a conundrum for any playwright: How do you enliven characters who alternately bore and exasperate each other?— Michael Phillips It's a demanding dining experience that may exhaust and exasperate some customers …— Thomas Matthews … they are just like any brothers who love and exasperate each other in equal measure …— Allison Glock
b : to excite the anger of : enrage She did show favour to the youth in your sight only to exasperate you, to awake your dormouse valour, to put fire in your heart and brimstone in your liver.— William Shakespeare … no doubt he thought that such rigorous discipline as that might exasperate five hundred emigrants into an insurrection.— Herman Melville
2 obsolete : to make more grievous : aggravate


ex·​as·​per·​ate | \ ig-ˈza-sp(ə-)rət How to pronounce exasperate (audio) \

Definition of exasperate (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : irritated or annoyed especially to the point of injudicious action : exasperated
2 : roughened with irregular prickles or elevations exasperate seed coats

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for exasperate


irritate, exasperate, nettle, provoke, rile, peeve mean to excite a feeling of anger or annoyance. irritate implies an often gradual arousing of angry feelings that may range from mere impatience to rage. constant nagging that irritated me greatly exasperate suggests galling annoyance and the arousing of extreme impatience. his exasperating habit of putting off needed decisions nettle suggests a sharp but passing annoyance or stinging. your pompous attitude nettled several people provoke implies an arousing of strong annoyance that may excite to action. remarks made solely to provoke her rile implies inducing an angry or resentful agitation. the new work schedules riled the employees peeve suggests arousing fretful often petty or querulous irritation. a toddler peeved at being refused a cookie

The Difference Between Exasperate and Exacerbate


Exasperate hangs with a rough crowd. It derives from exasperatus, the past participle of the Latin verb exasperare, which in turn was formed by combining ex- with asper, meaning "rough." Another descendant of asper in English is asperity, which can refer to the roughness of a surface or the roughness of someone's temper. Another relative, albeit a distant one, is the English word spurn, meaning "to reject." Lest you wish to exasperate your readers, you should take care not to confuse exasperate with the similar-sounding exacerbate, another Latin-derived verb that means "to make worse," as in "Their refusal to ask for help only exacerbated the problem."

Examples of exasperate in a Sentence


The criticism of his latest movie is sure to exasperate his admirers. We were exasperated by the delays.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Critics argued the policy has exasperated the city's addiction and homeless problem. Fox News, "Police departments rethink approach to battling addiction crisis," 21 June 2019 By the end, Obama was exasperated and close to firing Holbrooke, but the real source of the distance between them had come much earlier, in the aftermath of September 11, when President Bush made up his mind to invade Iraq. Thomas Powers, The New York Review of Books, "The Fog of Ambition," 6 June 2019 The mental image of a singularity migrating from deep within a black hole to the event horizon provoked at least one exasperated outburst during the Stanford workshop, a reaction Bousso finds understandable. Jennifer Ouellette, Quanta Magazine, "Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire," 21 Dec. 2012 Fans expecting too much would be exasperated by the reality ... Nice to hear hints of optimism from former Giants infielder Matt Duffy, whose Achilles-tendon issues cost him an entire season. Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, "Giants discover ‘free’ agents aren’t so free," 12 Jan. 2018 Who’s been hiding in my closet!’ The scene was Theo [Malcolm-Jamal Warner] not having done his homework properly, and his room was a mess, and Clair was exasperated. John Jurgensen, WSJ, "Phylicia Rashad Is Everybody’s Mom," 17 Feb. 2019 The story of the Showbox music venue is exasperating to those who warned that Seattle’s growth-on-steroids policies would gentrify the city and sweep away its history. Danny Westneat, The Seattle Times, "With the Showbox, we’re all NIMBYs now," 15 Aug. 2018 Reporters were exasperated during an exchange with the president Friday after federal agents arrested a Florida man suspected of sending bombs to notable liberals. Laura Mcgann, Vox, "Let’s stop pretending Trump is just pretending," 30 Oct. 2018 The viewer may be exasperated by some of the seemingly poor decisions made by the characters. Iván Szabó, New York Times, "Review: In ‘The Citizen,’ an Immigrant Picks a Bad Time to Fall in Love," 5 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exasperate.' 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 exasperate


1534, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for exasperate


Latin exasperatus, past participle of exasperare, from ex- + asper rough — more at asperity

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about exasperate

Listen to Our Podcast about exasperate

Statistics for exasperate

Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for exasperate

The first known use of exasperate was in 1534

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for exasperate



English Language Learners Definition of exasperate

: to make (someone) very angry or annoyed


ex·​as·​per·​ate | \ ig-ˈza-spə-ˌrāt How to pronounce exasperate (audio) \
exasperated; exasperating

Kids Definition of exasperate

: to make angry

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on exasperate

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


to complain fretfully

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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