es·​ca·​late | \ ˈe-skə-ˌlāt How to pronounce escalate (audio) , nonstandard -skyə- How to pronounce escalate (audio) \
escalated; escalating

Definition of escalate

intransitive verb

: to increase in extent, volume, number, amount, intensity, or scope a little war threatens to escalate into a huge ugly one— Arnold Abrams

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Other Words from escalate

escalation \ ˌe-​skə-​ˈlā-​shən How to pronounce escalate (audio) , nonstandard  -​skyə-​ \ noun
escalatory \ ˈe-​skə-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce escalate (audio) , nonstandard  -​skyə-​ \ adjective

Examples of escalate in a Sentence

The conflict has escalated into an all-out war. a time of escalating tensions We are trying not to escalate the violence. Salaries of leading executives have continued to escalate. The cold weather has escalated fuel prices.
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Recent Examples on the Web However, current allotments won’t last if drought trend lines continue and water wars escalate. Steve Lopez Columnist, Los Angeles Times, 9 Oct. 2021 This training is designed to help de-escalate situations with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. cleveland, 8 Oct. 2021 Fines for violating the policy escalate with each offense. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, 4 Oct. 2021 Fines for violating the policy escalate with each offense. Jon Hale, USA TODAY, 4 Oct. 2021 The lesson in all this is that weakness not only encourages aggression but can lead to miscalculations that can lead to confrontations that can escalate into war. Bradley Gitz, Arkansas Online, 13 Sep. 2021 Discipline for non-compliance begins with unpaid leave, but can escalate to termination. Lisa Maria Garza,, 8 Sep. 2021 The Missouri Hospital Association also provides training to help workers protect themselves, including training on how to recognize and de-escalate when someone becomes agitated. Jim Salter, USA TODAY, 28 Sep. 2021 As the murders escalate and make national news, Everett summons horror tropes in service to notions of what justice might look like. Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times, 28 Sep. 2021

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

1944, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for escalate

back-formation from escalator

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Time Traveler for escalate

Time Traveler

The first known use of escalate was in 1944

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Statistics for escalate

Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Escalate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for escalate



English Language Learners Definition of escalate

: to become worse or to make (something) worse or more severe
: to become greater or higher or to make (something) greater or higher

More from Merriam-Webster on escalate

Nglish: Translation of escalate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of escalate for Arabic Speakers


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