height·​en | \ ˈhī-tᵊn How to pronounce heighten (audio) \
heightened; heightening\ ˈhīt-​niŋ How to pronounce heightening (audio) , 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 Prison and jail outbreaks heighten the inequality of COVID-19’s burden. Kelly Servick, Science | AAAS, "Pandemic inspires new push to shrink jails and prisons," 17 Sep. 2020 Somehow these glitches only heighten the show’s soothing effect, its sense of bridging space and time. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "The Soothing Pleasures of “The Victorian Kitchen Garden,” a Vintage BBC Docuseries," 8 Sep. 2020 The support of friends and a series of coincidences heighten your professional public image. BostonGlobe.com, "Horoscope," 25 Aug. 2020 These supply interruptions can heighten risks for users who seek new dealers and buy unfamiliar products. Jon Kamp, WSJ, "The Opioid Crisis, Already Serious, Has Intensified During Coronavirus Pandemic," 8 Sep. 2020 Additional studies have warned that hurricanes and other natural disasters that hit areas already struggling with COVID-19 will heighten risk and make recovery harder. Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, "‘Everything has changed’: How hurricane preparations are adapting to a deadly pandemic," 25 Aug. 2020 What's happening in the world may shift the details of how things happen, but the big moves continue to happen — and actually potentially heighten and make better the television show then maybe some of our initial plans, because that's our job. Dan Snierson, EW.com, "This Is Us creator says the show will 'attack' pandemic 'head on' in season 5," 17 Aug. 2020 Months of pursuing a story have never discouraged Cook from doing her job, but rather heighten her determination to put the pieces together. Fei Chan, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Investigative reporter enjoys solving real-world puzzles," 6 Aug. 2020 Pompeo used the launch of its 2019 annual report – which singles out China as one of the worst offenders of religious freedom for its treatment of Uighurs – as an opportunity to heighten the administration’s rhetoric against China. Shelley Inglis, The Conversation, "Pompeo’s plan for a hierarchy of human rights could serve to undermine them all – including religious freedom," 5 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for heighten

Time Traveler

The first known use of heighten was in 1523

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Statistics for heighten

Last Updated

25 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Heighten.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heighten. Accessed 27 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for heighten


How to pronounce heighten (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of heighten

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


height·​en | \ ˈhī-tᵊn How to pronounce heighten (audio) \
heightened; heightening

Kids Definition of heighten

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

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