ag·​gra·​vate | \ ˈa-grə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \
aggravated; aggravating

Definition of aggravate

transitive verb

1 : to make worse, more serious, or more severe : to intensify unpleasantly problems have been aggravated by neglect
2a : to rouse to displeasure or anger by usually persistent and often petty goading were aggravated by the noise and traffic
b : to produce inflammation in
3 obsolete
a : to make heavy : burden
b : increase

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Common Uses of Aggravate, Aggravation, and Aggravating: Usage Guide

Although aggravate has been used to refer to rousing someone to anger since the 17th century, it has been the object of disapproval only since about 1870. It is used in expository prose when his silly conceit … about his not-very-good early work has begun to aggravate us — William Styron but seems to be more common in speech and casual writing. a good profession for him, because bus drivers get aggravated — Jackie Gleason, interview, 1986 & now this letter comes to aggravate me a thousand times worse — Mark Twain, letter, 1864 The "make worse" meaning is far more common in published prose than the "rouse to anger" meaning. Such is not the case, however, with aggravation and aggravating. Aggravation is used in the "irritation, provocation" sense somewhat more than in its earlier senses; aggravating has practically no use other than to express annoyance.

Examples of aggravate in a Sentence

She aggravated an old knee injury. They're afraid that we might aggravate an already bad situation. A headache can be aggravated by too much exercise. The symptoms were aggravated by drinking alcohol. All of these delays really aggravate me. Our neighbors were aggravated by all the noise.
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Recent Examples on the Web However, higher energy prices could aggravate inflation and prompt the Federal Reserve to withdraw its easy monetary policy sooner, damping economic growth. Josh Mitchell, WSJ, 10 Oct. 2021 But the star edge rusher didn’t re-aggravate the injury, according to Mario Cristobal. oregonlive, 26 Sep. 2021 Even short-term exposures can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma and acute bronchitis, and increasing the susceptibility to respiratory infections, officials said. London Gibson, The Indianapolis Star, 11 Aug. 2021 More density will aggravate existing issues, such as lack of parking, said Mayor Pro Temp Ed Spriggs. San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 July 2021 But— everybody kept mum not to aggravate the situation. NBC News, 14 June 2021 These proposals aggravate a wound that is already festering: Texas is not new to such legislation. Amanda Shendruk, Quartz, 31 May 2021 But recently the government has quietly allowed increasing numbers of Jews to pray there, a shift that could aggravate the instability in East Jerusalem and potentially lead to religious conflict. New York Times, 24 Aug. 2021 Taurasi, who’s been battling injuries the last two months, appeared to aggravate her hip Friday, ultimately going scoreless for the first time in her Olympic career, only playing 12:30 once the game was out of reach. Alexa Philippou,, 6 Aug. 2021

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

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for aggravate

borrowed from Latin aggravātus, past participle of aggravāre "to weigh down, burden, oppress, make worse," from ad- ad- + gravāre "to make heavy, weigh down," verbal derivative of gravis "heavy" — more at grieve

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Learn More About aggravate

Time Traveler for aggravate

Time Traveler

The first known use of aggravate was in 1530

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Last Updated

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Aggravate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for aggravate



English Language Learners Definition of aggravate

: to make (an injury, problem, etc.) more serious or severe
: to make (someone) angry : to annoy or bother (someone)


ag·​gra·​vate | \ ˈa-grə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \
aggravated; aggravating

Kids Definition of aggravate

1 : to make worse or more serious aggravate an injury Don't aggravate an already bad situation.
2 : to make angry usually by bothering again and again All of these delays really aggravate me.


transitive verb
ag·​gra·​vate | \ ˈag-rə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \
aggravated; aggravating

Medical Definition of aggravate

1 : to make worse, more serious, or more severe movement may aggravate the pain
2 : to produce inflammation in : irritate surgery aggravated the nerve

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transitive verb
ag·​gra·​vate | \ ˈa-grə-ˌvāt How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \
aggravated; aggravating

Legal Definition of aggravate

: to make more serious, more severe, or worse maliciousness aggravated the offense aggravating factors — compare mitigate

Other Words from aggravate

aggravation \ ˌa-​grə-​ˈvā-​shən How to pronounce aggravate (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on aggravate

Nglish: Translation of aggravate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of aggravate for Arabic Speakers


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