exacerbate

verb
ex·​ac·​er·​bate | \ ig-ˈza-sər-ˌbāt How to pronounce exacerbate (audio) \
exacerbated; exacerbating

Essential Meaning of exacerbate

: to make (a bad situation, a problem, etc.) worse The proposed factory shutdown would only exacerbate our unemployment problems. His angry comments have exacerbated tensions in the negotiation process.

Full Definition of exacerbate

transitive verb

: to make more violent, bitter, or severe The new law only exacerbates the problem.

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Other Words from exacerbate

exacerbation \ ig-​ˌza-​sər-​ˈbā-​shən How to pronounce exacerbate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for exacerbate

Synonyms

Antonyms

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Exacerbate vs. Exasperate

Exacerbate is frequently confused with exasperate, and with good reason. Not only do these words resemble one another in spelling and pronunciation, they also at one time held exceedingly similar meanings. Exasperate is today most commonly used as a synonym of annoy, but for several hundred years it also had the meanings “to make more grievous” and “to make harsh or harsher.” Exacerbate is now the more common choice of these two words when one seeks to indicate that something is becoming increasingly bitter, violent, or unpleasant. It comes in part from the Latin word acer, meaning “sharp,” whereas exasperate is from asper, the Latin word for “rough.”

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.

Examples of exacerbate in a Sentence

The declining retirement security faced by growing numbers of Americans is being exacerbated by increasing longevity and quickly rising health care costs. — Jeff Madrick, New York Review of Books, 20 Mar. 2008 … the sway that pack journalism holds on the Beltway press corps persists. The Crowd is never so influential as in the ever-lengthening season of presidential campaigns. The feverish obsessions of the blogosphere have only exacerbated the phenomenon: Now the herd just turns faster in pursuit of some ginned-up "controversy" or faux scandal. Editor & Publisher, April 2007 The proposed factory shutdown would only exacerbate our unemployment problems. His angry comments have exacerbated tensions in the negotiation process.
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Recent Examples on the Web Heat can also exacerbate symptoms from underlying ailments such as cardiac disease, diabetes or kidney problems. NBC News, 20 Oct. 2021 Put frankly, taking thoughts seriously is how the problem started and being encouraged to lean into these thoughts in a therapeutic context can exacerbate distress. Sadhbh O'sullivan, refinery29.com, 15 Oct. 2021 One force is climate change, which can exacerbate disasters that take down parts of the grid, as Hurricane Ida did this summer, knocking New Orleans offline just as a heat wave settled in. Matt Simon, Wired, 6 Oct. 2021 Lack of dental care can also exacerbate chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease, delay diagnosis and result in preventable complications and costly ER visits, KFF found. Kate Gibson, CBS News, 29 Sep. 2021 Medications like chemotherapy drugs vincristine (Marqibo), paclitaxel (Abraxane) can also exacerbate symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says. Korin Miller, Health.com, 28 Sep. 2021 Millennials face quite the dangerous dynamic: For many, financial strain sits at the root of their mental health issues, but their mental health issues can also exacerbate their financial stress. Q.ai - Make Genius Money Moves, Forbes, 27 Sep. 2021 Zachary Loeb, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania who studies how technology can exacerbate risk, said the similarities between new and old technologies can be instructive. Washington Post, 24 Sep. 2021 As psychedelics can exacerbate these conditions, a history of these symptoms — or disorders that are marked by these symptoms —can be a disqualifying factor at retreats that offer this type of treatment. Erin Qualey, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2021

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

1660, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for exacerbate

borrowed from Latin exacerbātus, past participle of exacerbāre "to irritate, exasperate, make worse," from ex- ex- entry 1 + acerbāre "to make bitter, make worse," verbal derivative of acerbus "acid, bitter, bitterly hostile, distressing" — more at acerb

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Time Traveler for exacerbate

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The first known use of exacerbate was in 1660

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Last Updated

26 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Exacerbate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exacerbate. Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for exacerbate

exacerbate

transitive verb
ex·​ac·​er·​bate | \ ig-ˈzas-ər-ˌbāt How to pronounce exacerbate (audio) \
exacerbated; exacerbating

Medical Definition of exacerbate

: to cause (a disease or its symptoms) to become more severe her condition was exacerbated by lack of care

Other Words from exacerbate

exacerbation \ -​ˌzas-​ər-​ˈbā-​shən How to pronounce exacerbate (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on exacerbate

Nglish: Translation of exacerbate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of exacerbate for Arabic Speakers

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