mit·​i·​gate ˈmi-tə-ˌgāt How to pronounce mitigate (audio)
mitigated; mitigating

transitive verb

: to cause to become less harsh or hostile : mollify
aggressiveness may be mitigated or … channeledAshley Montagu
: to make less severe or painful : alleviate
mitigate a patient's suffering
: extenuate
attempted to mitigate the offense
mitigative adjective
mitigator noun
mitigatory adjective
Mitigate vs. Militate: Usage Guide

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.

Did you know?

The meaning of mitigate is straightforward enough: to make something—such as a problem, symptom, or punishment—less harsh or severe. Sometimes, however, mitigate appears where the similar-looking militate is expected. That word, which is often followed by against, means “to have weight or effect,” as in “your unexcused absences are likely to militate against your getting a promotion.” The two words are not closely related (mitigate comes from the Latin verb mitigare, meaning “to soften,” whereas militate traces to militare, meaning “to engage in warfare”), but the confusion between the two has existed for long enough that some usage commentators have accepted “mitigate against” as an idiomatic alternative to militate. Even William Faulkner used mitigate in this way in his 1932 short story, Centaur in Brass, writing “It's as though there were some intangible and invisible social force that mitigates against him.” Unless you’re Faulkner, though, it’s probably best to keep mitigate and militate distinct.

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of mitigate in a Sentence

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 Langewiesche, Atlantic, May 2005
… 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 Oates, New York Review of Books, 14 Aug. 2003
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 Diaz, Sports Illustrated, 8 Nov. 1993
Emergency funds are being provided to help mitigate the effects of the disaster. medicines used to mitigate a patient's suffering
Recent Examples on the Web This approach would not only reduce the burden placed on U.S. forces but also mitigate the broader security risks caused by backlash against the United States’ military presence in the region and create a more stable foundation for the U.S. relationship with these countries. Jennifer Kavanagh, Foreign Affairs, 24 Nov. 2023 There are mixed opinions on whether air purifiers are a reliable solution to help prevent or mitigate seasonal allergies. Emily Shiffer, Parents, 22 Nov. 2023 Bruised by previous failures to mitigate the social impacts of technology platforms, the EU has increasingly taken a more muscular approach to regulating Big Tech. Peter Guest, WIRED, 22 Nov. 2023 Not to be mistaken as a cushiony workplace perk, psychologically safe workplaces are vital for the bottom line—improving company culture, mitigating burnout, and retaining workers. Alexa Mikhail, Fortune Well, 21 Nov. 2023 The team decided to match white participants with caucasian image examples in an attempt to mitigate potential own-race recognition bias—the tendency for racial and cultural populations to more poorly remember unfamiliar faces from different demographics. Andrew Paul, Popular Science, 15 Nov. 2023 The researchers behind the report say that there needs to be urgent action on climate change to mitigate the health impacts. Dr. Khushali Jhaveri, ABC News, 14 Nov. 2023 In research released in May, OpenAI addressed its efforts to mitigate hallucinations. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, 13 Nov. 2023 One way to mitigate this problem would be to restrict searches to databases in which all citizens are equally represented, such as those containing driver’s-license photos. Eyal Press, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mitigate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of mitigate was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near mitigate

Cite this Entry

“Mitigate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


mit·​i·​gate ˈmit-ə-ˌgāt How to pronounce mitigate (audio)
mitigated; mitigating
: to make less severe
mitigate a punishment
mitigation noun

Medical Definition


transitive verb
mit·​i·​gate ˈmit-ə-ˌgāt How to pronounce mitigate (audio)
mitigated; mitigating
: to make less severe or painful

Legal Definition


mit·​i·​gate ˈmi-tə-ˌgāt How to pronounce mitigate (audio)
mitigated; mitigating

transitive verb

: to lessen or minimize the severity of
what actions the State took to mitigate the hazardous conditionsEstate of Arrowwood v. State, 894 P.2d 642 (1995)
factors that mitigate the crime
see also mitigation of damages sense 1 compare aggravate

intransitive verb

: to lessen or minimize the severity of one's losses or damage
a failure to mitigate
mitigation noun
mitigative adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on mitigate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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