height·​en | \ ˈhī-tᵊn \
heightened; heightening\ ˈhīt-​niŋ , ˈhī-​tᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of heighten

transitive verb

1a : to increase the amount or degree of : augment
b : to make brighter or more intense : deepen
c : to bring out more strongly : point up
d : to make more acute : sharpen
2a : to raise high or higher : elevate
b : to raise above the ordinary or trite
3 obsolete : elate

intransitive verb

1 archaic : grow, rise
2a : to become great or greater in amount, degree, or extent
b : to become brighter or more intense

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Examples of heighten in a Sentence

The plan will only heighten tensions between the two groups. This tragedy has heightened our awareness of the need for improved safety measures. Tensions between the two groups have heightened.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The accreditation industry is facing heightened scrutiny following the Journal’s initial report. Stephanie Armour, WSJ, "Psychiatric Hospitals With Safety Violations Still Get Accreditation," 26 Dec. 2018 In recent weeks, Trump has attempted to deflect questions about his own behavior and violent incidents by blaming cable news and other outlets for a sense of heightening division in America. Aaron Rupar, Vox, "“Sit down ... you’re a terrible person”: Trump unloads on reporters during ugly news conference," 7 Nov. 2018 Her handbags, which until now have only been available by email request (a brilliant stroke of salesmanship that only heightened their covetability), are tucked away in a jewel box of a space at the back. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Gabriela Hearst Just Opened the Most Beautiful Store in New York City," 5 Nov. 2018 Well, Sean, House Republicans say that yesterday's testimony only heightened their concerns that federal authorities abuse surveillance powers during the 2016 election. Fox News, "Kellyanne Conway: CNN's bombshell report is just a bomb," 29 Aug. 2018 But the assimilation process has been made harder by increasingly aggressive propaganda campaigns in the Russian-language news media, narratives widely believed to be directed from Moscow with the intent of heightening divisions. Marc Santora, New York Times, "Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently.," 10 July 2018 Ned's gruesome fall from a deer stand in the offseason only heightened her concerns. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Ned Yost has reasons to leave the Royals. Here's why he'll remain manager after 2018," 27 Apr. 2018 The spiraling crisis could affect Russians beyond official circles by making the Kremlin narrative of a Russia surrounded by enemies seem more credible, and by heightening public suspicions of all Westerners. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why this round of expulsions may bring US, Russia to breaking point," 27 Mar. 2018 Drama surrounding the event heightened in the hours before the leaders greeted each other, as the two sides shifted their schedules. David Tweed, Bloomberg.com, "Trump, Kim Voice Optimism Over Path to Peace as Summit Opens," 12 June 2018

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

1523, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for heighten

The first known use of heighten was in 1523

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English Language Learners Definition of heighten

: to increase the amount, degree, or extent of (something)


height·​en | \ ˈhī-tᵊn \
heightened; heightening

Kids Definition of heighten

: to make greater : increase The film heightened their interest in Alaska.

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More from Merriam-Webster on heighten

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with heighten

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for heighten

Spanish Central: Translation of heighten

Nglish: Translation of heighten for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of heighten for Arabic Speakers

Comments on heighten

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


to gather or build up little by little

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