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
1425–75;late Middle English < Latinaggravātus (past participle of aggravāre), equivalent to ag-ag- + grav- (see grave2) + -ātus-ate1; cf. aggrieve
Related formsag·gra·va·tive, adjectiveag·gra·va·tor, nouno·ver·ag·gra·vate, verb (used with object),o·ver·ag·gra·vat·ed,o·ver·ag·gra·vat·ing.pre·ag·gra·vate, verb (used with object),pre·ag·gra·vat·ed,pre·ag·gra·vat·ing.re·ag·gra·vate, verb (used with object),re·ag·gra·vat·ed,re·ag·gra·vat·ing.Can be confusedaggravateannoyirritateaggravateintensifyworsen (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. 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.
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.
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.