: to make more violent, bitter, or severe
Did You Know?
Make it a point to know that the Latin adjective acer, meaning "sharp," forms the basis of a number of words that have come into English. The words acerbic ("having a bitter temper or sour mood"), acrid ("having a sharp taste or odor"), and acrimony ("a harsh manner or disposition") are just the tip of the iceberg. First appearing in English in the 17th century, exacerbate derives from the Latin prefix ex-, which means "out of" or "outside," and acerbus, which means "harsh" or "bitter" and comes from acer. Just as pouring salt in a wound worsens pain, things that exacerbate can cause a situation to go from bad to worse. A pointed insult, for example, might exacerbate tensions between two rivals.
It seemed as though every new attempt at a solution served only to exacerbate the problem.
"The rise of commercial data profiling is exacerbating existing inequities in society and could turn de facto discrimination into a high-tech enterprise." - Seeta Peña Gangadharan, The New York Times, August 7, 2014
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of exacerbate: _ _ gr _v _ te. The answer is …
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