verb ex·as·per·ate \ ig-ˈza-spə-ˌrāt \
|Updated on: 24 Jul 2018

Definition of exasperate

exasperated; exasperating
1 a : 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




play \ig-ˈza-spə-ˌrā-tiŋ-lē\ adverb

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Examples of exasperate in a Sentence

  1. The criticism of his latest movie is sure to exasperate his admirers.

  2. We were exasperated by the delays.

Recent Examples of exasperate from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of exasperate

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

Synonym Discussion of 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



adjective ex·as·per·ate \ ig-ˈza-sp(ə-)rət \

Definition of exasperate

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

First Known Use of exasperate


in the meaning defined at sense 1

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EXASPERATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of exasperate for English Language Learners

  • : to make (someone) very angry or annoyed

EXASPERATE Defined for Kids


verb ex·as·per·ate \ ig-ˈza-spə-ˌrāt \

Definition of exasperate for Students

exasperated; exasperating
: to make angry

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very hard to disturb or upset

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