verb mit·i·gate \ ˈmi-tə-ˌgāt \
|Updated on: 9 Aug 2018

Definition of mitigate

mitigated; mitigating
1 : to cause to become less harsh or hostile : mollify
  • aggressiveness may be mitigated or … channeled
  • —Ashley Montagu
2 a : to make less severe or painful : alleviate
  • mitigate a patient's suffering
b : extenuate
  • attempted to mitigate the offense


play \ˌmi-tə-ˈgā-shən\ noun


play \ˈmi-tə-ˌgā-tiv\ adjective


play \-ˌgā-tər\ noun


play \ˈmi-ti-gə-ˌtȯr-ē\ adjective

mitigate was our Word of the Day on 11/08/2013. Hear the podcast!

mitigate vs. militate

Mitigate is sometimes used as an intransitive (followed by against) where militate might be expected. Even though Faulkner used it
    • some intangible and invisible social force that mitigates against him
    • —William Faulkner
and one critic thinks it should be called an American idiom, it is usually considered a mistake.

Examples of mitigate in a Sentence

  1. At the far end of the room is a sliding glass door, taped with an X to mitigate shattering. The framing is flimsy, and rattles from mortar rounds even a half mile away. —William LangewiescheAtlanticMay 2005
  2. … a genre novel whose inevitable cinematic ending doesn't mitigate the visceral and emotional power of what has come before. It lingers in the memory like a very bad dream. —Joyce Carol OatesNew York Review of Books14 Aug. 2003
  3. For 65 holes Norman dominated the classic rolling fairways and small, subtle greens of Olympic … with driving and iron play so solid that it mitigated mediocre putting. —Jaime DiazSports Illustrated8 Nov. 1993
  4. Emergency funds are being provided to help mitigate the effects of the disaster.

  5. medicines used to mitigate a patient's suffering

Recent Examples of mitigate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mitigate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

mitigate or militate?

Would it be correct to say, "His boyish appearance mitigated against his getting an early promotion"? Most usage commentators would say "no." They feel such examples demonstrate a long-standing confusion between mitigate and the look-alike militate. Those two words are not closely related etymologically (mitigate descends from the Latin verb mitigare, meaning "to soften," whereas militate traces to militare, another Latin verb that means "to engage in warfare"), nor are they particularly close in meaning (militate means "to have weight or effect"). The confusion between the two has existed for long enough that one commentator thinks "mitigate against" should be accepted as an idiomatic alternative to militate, but if you want to avoid criticism, you should keep mitigate and militate distinct.

Origin and Etymology of mitigate

Middle English, from Latin mitigatus, past participle of mitigare to soften, from mitis soft + -igare (akin to Latin agere to drive); akin to Old Irish moíth soft — more at agent

Synonym Discussion of mitigate

relieve, alleviate, lighten, assuage, mitigate, allay mean to make something less grievous. relieve implies a lifting of enough of a burden to make it tolerable.
    • took an aspirin to relieve the pain
alleviate implies temporary or partial lessening of pain or distress.
    • the lotion alleviated the itching
lighten implies reducing a burdensome or depressing weight.
    • good news would lighten our worries
assuage implies softening or sweetening what is harsh or disagreeable.
    • ocean breezes assuaged the intense heat
mitigate suggests a moderating or countering of the effect of something violent or painful.
    • the need to mitigate barbaric laws
allay implies an effective calming or soothing of fears or alarms.
    • allayed their fears

MITIGATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of mitigate for English Language Learners

  • : to make (something) less severe, harmful, or painful

Medical Dictionary


transitive verb mit·i·gate \ ˈmit-ə-ˌgāt \

medical Definition of mitigate

mitigated; mitigating
: to make less severe or painful

Law Dictionary


verb mit·i·gate \ ˈmi-tə-ˌgāt \

legal Definition of mitigate

mitigated; mitigating
: to lessen or minimize the severity of
  • what actions the State took to mitigate the hazardous conditions
  • Estate of Arrowwood v. State, 894 P.2d 642 (1995)
  • factors that mitigate the crime
— see also mitigation of damages 1 — compare aggravate
: to lessen or minimize the severity of one's losses or damage
  • a failure to mitigate


play \ˌmi-tə-ˈgā-shən\ noun


play \ˈmi-tə-ˌgā-tiv\ adjective

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excessive admiration or flattery

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