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[ag-ruh-veyt] /ˈæg rəˌveɪt/
verb (used with object), aggravated, aggravating.
to make worse or more severe; intensify, as anything evil, disorderly, or troublesome:
to aggravate a grievance; to aggravate an illness.
to annoy; irritate; exasperate:
His questions aggravate her.
to cause to become irritated or inflamed:
The child's constant scratching aggravated the rash.
Origin of aggravate
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English < Latin aggravātus (past participle of aggravāre), equivalent to ag- ag- + grav- (see grave2) + -ātus -ate1; cf. aggrieve
Related forms
aggravative, adjective
aggravator, noun
overaggravate, verb (used with object), overaggravated, overaggravating.
preaggravate, verb (used with object), preaggravated, preaggravating.
reaggravate, verb (used with object), reaggravated, reaggravating.
Can be confused
aggravate, annoy, intensify, irritate, worsen (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. heighten, increase. Aggravate, intensify both mean to increase in degree. To aggravate is to make more serious or more grave: to aggravate a danger, an offense, a wound. To intensify is perceptibly to increase intensity, force, energy, vividness, etc.: to intensify heat, color, rage. 2. anger, vex, rile.
1. alleviate.
Usage note
The two most common senses of aggravate are “to make worse” and “to annoy or exasperate.” Both senses first appeared in the early 17th century at almost the same time; the corresponding two senses of the noun aggravation also appeared then. Both senses of aggravate and aggravation have been standard since then. The use of aggravate to mean “annoy” is sometimes objected to because it departs from the etymological meaning “to make heavier,” and in formal speech and writing the sense “annoy” is somewhat less frequent than “to make worse.” The noun aggravation meaning “annoyance” occurs in all types of speech and writing. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for aggravate
Contemporary Examples
  • This, in turn, serves to amplify and aggravate differences of interest and power among the competing national groups.

Historical Examples
  • But the champagne seemed only to aggravate their gloom except in the case of young Jamieson.

    The Plum Tree David Graham Phillips
  • He knows I don't want sech things, and he does it jest to aggravate me.

    Freaks of Fortune Oliver Optic
  • This is, of course, not his fault, but it seems somehow to aggravate the distaste I have for him.

    A Bid for Fortune Guy Boothby
  • That I will help Kate controll her temper, and not mock and aggravate her when she sulks.

    The Madigans Miriam Michelson
  • Their wooden grimaces must aggravate the precisely featured houses of the town.

    Fantazius Mallare Ben Hecht
  • Mr Vandean,” cried the lieutenant, “do you want to aggravate me?

    The Black Bar George Manville Fenn
  • To aggravate this disaster, a curious sight was seen a fortnight after the fall of the Peñon.

  • Is it for you to aggravate as a crime, what reason teaches is, at worst, a misfortune?

  • A herd of others were suborned to aggravate the charges, and to controvert whatever evidence the prisoner might bring forward.

British Dictionary definitions for aggravate


verb (transitive)
to make (a disease, situation, problem, etc) worse or more severe
(informal) to annoy; exasperate, esp by deliberate and persistent goading
Derived Forms
aggravating, adjective
aggravation, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin aggravāre to make heavier, from gravis heavy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for aggravate

1520s, "make heavy, burden down," from past participle adjective aggravate "burdened; threatened" (late 15c.), from Latin aggravatus, past participle of aggravare "to render more troublesome," literally "to make heavy" (see aggravation). Earlier in this sense was aggrege (late 14c.). Meaning "to make a bad thing worse" is from 1590s; that of "exasperate, annoy" is from 1610s.

To aggravate has properly only one meaning -- to make (an evil) worse or more serious. [Fowler]
Related: Aggravated; aggravating. Phrase aggravating circumstances is recorded from 1790.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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