verb (used with object), ag·gra·vat·ed, ag·gra·vat·ing.

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 < Latin aggravātus (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··ag·gra·vate, verb (used with object), re·ag·gra·vat·ed, re·ag·gra·vat·ing.
Can be confusedaggravate annoy irritateaggravate intensify worsen (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for aggravate

Synonym study

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.

Antonyms for aggravate

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for aggravate

Contemporary Examples of aggravate

  • This, in turn, serves to amplify and aggravate differences of interest and power among the competing national groups.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why the Taliban Won

    Leslie H. Gelb

    August 23, 2009

Historical Examples of aggravate

British Dictionary definitions for aggravate


verb (tr)

to make (a disease, situation, problem, etc) worse or more severe
informal to annoy; exasperate, esp by deliberate and persistent goading
Derived Formsaggravating, adjectiveaggravation, noun

Word Origin for aggravate

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

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